US H1-B Visa Applications - A Fraud Most Foul
By John Fairheart, for FraudWatchers.ORG
Began 13th August 2007, Published 11th May 2008
Posted to FraudWatchers.ORG 27th July 2008
The title does not mean that I am calling US H1-B Visa's a fraud, but I am looking towards certain elements that appear to be ab
using the system for their own ends.
It is apparent that there is a confused contingent of surfers, it seems primarily from India, that are being targeted by companies offering H1-B applications. These nationals are being asked to supply exorbitant fees as a form of security for their application.
From posts at FraudWatchers, the staff are unable to get the message across, and on occasion it seems the postings have taken a turn towards antagonism and aggressive argument on both sides of the fence.
The facts have been stated until the FraudWatchers staff have turned blue in the face. Yet some people still believe they are getting good service
from companies who skirt ever closer to breaking national and international law.
These companies are allegedly taking monies from their supposed customers and lining their pockets, without having any intention to provide the services for which they are being paid.
The posts at FraudWatchers revolve mainly around the following company names:-
- Accurum Technologies LLC
- CLD & Associates Consulting Inc.
- Optima Resources Inc.
We will get back to the activities of these entities in a little while, but first we will do some background on the H1-B Visa itself, just to make sure we all understand what this subject is actually about.
What is a H1-B Visa?
To answer this we go over to workpermit.com [link
] and take a look at their very descriptive definitions in language you can understand.
The Basics Of The H1-B Visa [link]
The US H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows a US company to employ a foreign individual for up to six years.
Individuals can not apply for an H1B visa to allow them to work in the US.
The employer must petition for entry of the employee.
Basically the H1-B Visa allows an employer to bring in foreign workers to fill positions in so-called "speciality occupations
] for a maximum period of 6 years. The initial period of the Visa may be 3 years, which can then be extended for a further 2 years, followed by another year.
There are a large number of requirements [link
] that the "application sponsor
" (the US company) must satisfy locally to enable an application to be accepted in the first place. Not only this, but the prospective employee must satisfy a number of academic and professional requirements too [link
] before ever being eligible to fill out the application. If that was not all, there is a limit on the number of applications that are accepted by the USA, period.
The H1-B Sponsor
Ok, so who is the "application sponsor
", and what is their actual role? I was initially confused about this because the phrase "employer" keeps popping up, which does not match the business profile of the companies offering the H1-B's. These companies appear to be types of employment agencies or consultants, which in the UK at least is a different animal entirely.
F.A.Q (Sponsor) [link]
Q. Can employment/contracting agencies sponsor H1B visas?
Surprisingly the answer to the above question is a yes, though the sponsor has to bear the brunt of the various fees imposed by the application platform itself.
H1-B Application Fees
The fees for H1-B applications are quite severe, and this is I think part of the problem, or should I say... abuse.
F.A.Q (Fees) [link]
USCIS Filing Fee: US$ 190
USCIS Fraud Prevention & Detection Fee: US$ 500
That's a bill of US$ 690
before the application gets out of the trap and into the running. It gets worse from there on in.
There are more fees depending on how many equivalent full-time employees the petitioner employs (including in any affiliate or subsidiary company). If the petitioner has more than 25, the fee, called USCIS American Competitiveness & Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) Fee
is US$ 1,500
, or US$ 750
if the figure is 25 or less.
Then there is yet another fee for Consular Visa Processing of about US$ 105
. Fortunately the Prevailing Wage Determinations and Labour Condition Applications are free of charges. Shucks, that's nice.
Ok, so based on these figures we have a minimum fee of US$ 795
, up to an approximate maximum of US$ 2,295
An Optimal Beginning
So what exactly is the problem here? To begin with let us not get confused with another seemingly similar style of fraud perpetrated by West African email scammers. That style of scam is a very primitive cousin to the subject we are talking about here, although ultimately the result is actually the same; Paying in advance for something which was never available in the first place, like a visa. Make no mistake, the West African variant is still one that will catch people out, but is far less convincing than the subject of this posting.
Okay, let's say that an American company makes contact with various foreign nationals, and offers them the opportunity to apply for H1-B Visa. Said company allegedly does it's due diligence on the applicant and then asks for a 'Security Deposit' of hundreds or thousands of US Dollars as part of the application. No cash, no application. What would one say about that?
Worse still is the fact that the American company allegedly refuses point blank to offer any documentation regarding the fee that the applicant is being asked to pay. It will only be discussed over the telephone, never by postal mail, never by email. What about that?
The company, actually more than one, seemingly seek out Asian nationals, with a high focus on India. The companies are offering something that may seem like a dream come true. To move to the USA and to work for a good wage. Unfortunately as the saying goes... "If it sounds too good to be true... it probably is!
", especially when the fees involved could very well be everything that the foreign national has, maybe more.
Your application approved for job/ H1-B Visa for USA [link]
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 14:15:02 +0530
This email is in response to you resume that you posted on a job search portal. Your resume has been short listed after the initial screening. If you are interested and are still looking for a job in America , please forward your resume to the resource manager assigned to you and call her at any of the following phone numbers.
Optima Resources, Inc. is an established consulting firm specializing in bringing together companies seeking to fill permanent and temporary positions with qualified individuals looking for new opportunities. As an established consulting company, we get a large number of projects with specialized requirements through our direct clients as well as a large pool of primary vendors.
As part of these requirement processes, we are constantly in need and search of consultants with a wide variety of skills. We are currently accepting applications and are seeking talent in several functional areas. If you need more information about the hiring process or our company please feel free to contact the resource associate or visit us on our website www.optimaresources.com.
Please also note that the numbers of work visa available for the year 2007 are limited. In 2006 H1b visa exhausted within the first 60days. A large number of candidates could not get a job in America because they did not act in time. Please contact our office at your earliest convenience to expedite your hiring process.
We look forward to your resume and to hear from you.
Optima Resources Inc.
190, Lincoln Highway ,
Route 27, Edison
New Jersey 08820.
Phone: 1-732-579-3645, 1-732-447-3737, 1-732-301-2967, 1-732-214-8875, 1-732-214-8876, 1-732-214-0086
Fax: 1-732-549-7508, Mon-Fri; 8:30 am- 5:00pm EDT/ New York Time, i.e. (Indian Standard Time 7:00 PM To 3:30 AM )
E-mail- Sonia@optimaresources.com (Resources Manager)
Visit our Website: www.optimaresources.com
Due to heavy rush of calls if you find it difficult to get through to our numbers in early hours i.e. between 8.30 to 13.30 Hours US Time/6.30 PM to 12.00 Midnight Indian Time, please try after these hours when there is comparatively low call rush.
The single and seemingly very simple question from the Kuwait national, who posted the letter on 18th Feb 2007
, was "please advise me if this is legal
". This question started the ball rolling on what I think is the longest running FraudWatchers case so far. So much of a discussion was being made that the team at FraudWatchers dedicated an entire forum section for it. I referenced the thread from which the above quoted letter comes from, and attempted to find out the demographic of the posters. Thanks to FW Admin who confirms:
Poster Demographics Revealed - FW Admin
Out of the 40 posts you have referenced on that thread, there is one user from Kuwait, one from Kuala Lumpur, one from Saudi Arabia and at least 10 different posters from India. Interestingly though 7 of those are from the USA, of which some are Indian nationals, and at least one came from a member of Optima in New Jersey.
From the early posts on the subject it is immediately apparent that there were already rumblings of discontent on various sites across the internet about this company. Aeval, the FraudWatchers Law Enforcement Liaison
, made note of this on February 19th, 2007.
Show Me The Money
Aeval's Early Warning [link]
If you Google "Optima Resources Inc" (including the brackets), you will find quite a few posts on different boards containing personal accounts of dealings with this company, as well as a ton of warnings against it. In quite a few posts, other people state that they have been asked to pay this company quite significant amounts of money for the supposed visa processing, and that they were treated with disregard once the money was sent and delivered.
Entering into March 2007 we begin to see the first evidence of actual requests for money. The 10th sees a poster asking if a previous poster had paid, and states that they [Optima] would ask for US$ 4,400
. By the 14th we see an actual acknowledgement that someone was asked for the said amount. The rumblings continue with yet another apparently disgruntled ex-customer of Optima, making an appearance on March 20th and another on the 24th.
They Are Not Ready To Acknowledge [link]
Thy asked me to pay $4,400 and at the same time they are not ready to acknowledge for the same and plus they never call instead they ask candidates to call... funny??
Top Most Fraud Company [link]
They asks too much money for visa processing and once they got money, they becomes king and shined politicians.
They Will Sit Tight [link]
Once you send the documents they ask for, together with their filled form, they will sit tight, unless someone rings them. Then they demand for the money, which is illegal...asking for upfront money.
From these postings we can see already that there is something going on below the surface that smells of rotten Tuna. The requested fee is huge in comparison to even the most expensive cost of putting forward said application. The phrase I would use to describe the said fee is 'exorbitant' [dictionary
]. I personally cannot see how such a huge sum could be justified, though I'm quite sure some clever accounting could show otherwise. We also see that once a party has paid this fee the company [Optima] apparently sit around with a highly unprofessional attitude towards their paying customers.
Another For The Pot
Moving into the end of March 2007 the name of a second company rears its ugly head in the form of "CLD & Associates Consulting Inc". Oddly though, the mailing address of said company is the same
as Optima Resources Inc.
Jobs in USA [link]
The following company is offering the H1B visa for the offshore candidates.
Is this company genuine?
CLD&ASSOCIATES CONSULTING INC.
190 Lincoln Hwy.
When I look at that address I'm thinking maybe it is a mail forwarder or something like a mailbox company. However, considering that the same address is being used by two different companies which are seemingly doing exactly the same H1-B business, I smell a rat!
After some questions from a FraudWatchers staff member, certain confirmations were made about the alleged email proposition. Once again a confirmation of a demand for thousands of US Dollars is seen.
Demand For Payment And A Concern [link]
The job title is "Programmer Analyst". Which matches my job profile.
They are demanding 3500$ as the caution deposit.
As a H1B worker at USA, I can not switch jobs. I am concerned that whether this consulting firm takes advantage of this situation and make us work like a slave?
The poster raises a very important point, in that one may be held in an employment contract that would effectively trap you with no legal recourse to escape. This could even be construed as Human Trafficking [wikipedia
]. There is mention on WorkPermit.COM about a provision to work at different sites, within the proviso of the H1-B itself, but anything else would no doubt be written into an actual Contract Of Employment.
F.A.Q (Working At Other Sites) [link]
Q. Can the H1B employee work at different sites?
A. Yes, but a separate Labour Condition Application must be made for each site at which the employee will be working (though there is a limited exception for short-term assignments at different sites within the same Metropolitan Statistical Area).
After some further thoughts and questions from FraudWatchers staff, the poster then comes back with some more financial details that have apparently come from CLD.
Financial Statement [link]
They are demanding $3500 as caution deposit, which they say will be returned in 6 instalments, which starts after 6 months I start working for them. They are offering starting salary of $60,000 per annum. Which is $5,000/month. Is this a comparable salary for a software engineer with 3 years of experience?
As I myself am a Software Engineer in the UK, I can honestly say that when I had 3 years experience my wages were pitifully small compared to that! Even with inflation, exchange rates and over a decade of experience under by belt right now, I would actually be interested in learning more about that job!
The same poster responds to another Support member called Frazzle, who mentions the protection via US Employment Laws.
I Will Be Ruined [link]
Suppose in worst case, If I get harassments from employer and If I go to the court, is there any chance that I may be asked to go back to my home country. "In that case I will be ruined."
The poster from India provides some of the cultural perspective needed to understand what is happening to these people. If this Indian national invests what could possibly be his entire savings into getting the Visa, and is successful, what hope does he have if a problem arises later? In short, he would be forced to seek legal advice and potentially even be asked to leave the country. In any case, he would be ruined financially because he would have spent his money, and would now not have a job. Returning to India would carry a huge cultural weight which could possibly see him chastised as a failure and treated more like an outcast by his own family.
FW Admin provides further thoughts and cross-references the company name via a Google search. Despite the linked posting on "Path2USA.COM" being removed, FW Admin's post brings out a synopsis of the content it contained.
Having run the company name through Google, I only come up with a few entries, the primary being a forum discussion at this link:
It seems very strange to me that such an allegedly successful (and large) company has only this few internet search results, and indeed for a "computer consulting company" (as they describe themselves) I find it almost incredible that they would offer positions "sight unseen". I know even smaller companies MUST go through at least one personal interview stage (usually by telephone) before a one-on-one physical meeting to discuss the position - especially when the remuneration is so high.
The forum discussion at the above link is interesting as it allegedly has people who work for the company defending them... but at the same time being evasive enough not to sound totally convincing. You'll also see some posters expressing their disgust at the alleged service offered and are convinced that this company are scammers.
* - Original Postings Deleted
Looking closer at this particular company we find an excellent page of information on 419Scam.ORG [link
] which makes some comparisons between the CLD & Associates Inc website and others on the internet. It is certainly apparent, based on this analysis that certain pages have been plagiarised [dictionary
], which is certainly never a good sign. From a business ethics point of view, CLD & Associates Inc fail at the most basic level.
More Of The Same
Plagiarised Web Pages [link]
The following website comparison is very interesting:
1. CLD & Associates Consulting Inc:
As one of the pioneers in the IT Consulting, since its establishment CLD has gained the good will of the local as well as the global market. CLD has a list of distinguished clients and CLD is committed to establish and maintain long standing partnerships with the clients, where they obtain professionally crafted products and services on par with global industry standards.2. CLD & Associates Consulting Inc:
As one of the pioneers in the IT Consulting, since its establishment Pflegen has gained the good will of the local as well as the global market. Pflegen is committed to establish and maintain long \ standing partnerships with the clients, where they obtain professionally crafted products and services on par with global industry standards.
CLD provides software product and application development solutions to large established companies as well small and medium companies and startups.3. CLD & Associates Consulting Inc:
Global Bridge InfoTech Inc.:
GBIT provides software product and application development solutions to large established companies as well small and medium companies and startups.
Our client relationships are among our greatest competitive assets. We deepen and enrich this relationships through disciplined growth, innovation, and seamless execution. We demonstrate our commitments to clients through the firm's emphasis on excellence, integrity and ethical behavior.
Our client relationships are among our greatest competitive assets. We deepen and enrich these relationships through disciplined growth, innovation, and seamless execution. Corporate Governance Merrill Lynch demonstrates its commitments to clients and shareholders through the firm’s emphasis on excellence, integrity and ethical behaviour.
As March 2007 finishes and we drift into April, we see CLD & Associates wither into nothing. This may be due to the various noises being made. Likewise we see less talk about Optima Resourses, though the rumblings are still evident.
There is a suggestion to one poster, who claims to have paid US$ 300 to Optima [link
], to contact the New Jersey Attorney General and possibly the Better Business Bureau too.
Suggested Reporting Routes [link]
You might try contacting the New Jersey Attorney General, since that's where the company claims to be located. http://www.state.nj.us/lps/
However, unless you can provide proof (probably written/printed) that show they promised you a service, you paid for it, and they clearly didn't provide it, nothing much may come of it. There's also the option of complaining to the Better Business Bureau and spreading the word about them on appropriate forums. I'm afraid there isn't much chance of recovering any money, however, unless the attorney general gets a ton of complaints and wins a case against the company.
The staff member called Nyla, who presents this posting, makes a very important observation. Unless proof of payment for services is provided, then a complaint holds no water. However, as time goes on it becomes obvious that the perpetrators have no intention of providing that crucial ammunition. Underhanded and dubious are keywords here, and Optima fast become a focus of investigations.
Things go very quiet until almost the end of July 2007 when an unregistered poster from Houston, Texas makes the following observations about Optima Resources.
And Then There Were Three
Couple of idiots running this company. [link]
Never ever try to get in this company. A big Fraud company. They will take money and then they will not pick up the calls. If by god grace you get H1B visa, you will the most un-luckiest person, if you land in their company. No Accomodation, No Job, No Insurrance. Yes, you can take a leave of 4 - 5 months and roam America on your own expenses. Because you will be on Bench. Couple of Idiots running this company. Akshay Sadana, Raj, Austin. they run many other companies under Reliable Associates. Excelsior, Optima Resources etc...
There is nothing to report until mid way through November 2007, when on the 17th we see the first reports of yet another company seemingly doing exactly the same thing as the previous two. Enter another Indian national and Accurum Technologies LLC
I post my resume to Accurum Technologies [link]
I post my resume to Accurum Technologies. After a brief discussion with Rohit malhotra & sachin Patel ,they told me that i posted as network Eng. in Motorola & my salary 5000 US Dollars . Later On they asked me to Pay DD for 3500 US Dollars.can i pay the said amount .If anybody knows about them pls post.
Readers are pointed to a page on 419Scam.ORG which details their own findings regarding Accurum Technologies LLC.
Job offers by Accurum Technologies LLC [link]
You have to remember that currently over 75% of H1B visa applicants are turned down, fewer than 1 on 4 succeed and are able to work in the USA. Most of the visas go to people working for large Indian outsourcing firms (Accurum Technologies is not amongst them).
According to reports from job seekers, the company claims that the US$3,800* deposit is a security deposit to prevent job seekers from having Accurum sponsor them for a visa, but then work for a different company. However, H1B visa holders are not permitted to switch employers. Therefore the reason quoted for the deposit is invalid.
Furthermore, the US embassy in New Delhi states on its website "that no firm or person can help you obtain a U.S. visa." All non-immigrant visa applicants need to appear for a personal interview, where no one can appeal on their behalf.
Given the large number of H1B visa applications that will get turned down on 1 April 2008, what will happen to the $3,800 deposits made by job seekers promised jobs by Accurum? And maybe even more interesting, what other company name will start popping up, maybe also with a New Jersey address, a few months later to repeat this deposit-taking scheme under a new name with new victims?
* - Figure may vary.
A month passes by once more and then from 19th November 2007 there is a stream of enquiries about Accurum.
Accurum Resort To Subterfuge
...told me to pay 3500 USD [link]
Hi , i also received a mail from Accurum Technologies, and i in fact spoke to this guy called sumit patil and he also told me to pay 3500 USD, but in installments, before April 2008, so that he can process my H1, and also told me that this amount will be repaid to me once i am in US, within 3 months. Also i have to sign a contract with them for 18 months.
...they demanded 3800 us$ [link]
i too got job offer from them,i hav disscussed with them i think it may or surely be fraud,bt in my case they demanded 3800 us$ in two instalments.bt if i understand them better ,they looks like consultant basically becoz they provide clients based projects for eg. for me they offered me 7000 us$ under pharma/bioinformatics fields.and out of this they want security deposit of 3800 us$ which is 20% of my salary and they refunded back once u go there.
They asked me for a security deposit of 3800$ [link]
i got job offer from Accurum Technologies (2227 ,US Highway One,#206,North Brunswick,NJ-08902 ) ( Tel : 1-732-354-4828).They asked me for a security deposit of 3800$ to be paid in 2 installments ( Nov'07 & March '07) which they will pay me back once i reach there .They will be recruiting me on contractual basis with thier clients for 18 mths .Want to check the authenticity of the offer .They will be sponsoring the H! visa also .Can some one help
During November and December 2007 FraudWatchers see an increasing amount of activity surrounding Accurum Technologies LLC on the forum. Primarily the questioners are confused and worried about the fees being requested, and rightly so, but some even try to explain about the H1-B (badly).
During these exchanges it becomes apparent that something is not quite right and this is first noted by support member Frazzle on 29th November 2007. Here it is noted that the text of two posts are very similar and appear in different threads. The first post is by an unregistered user calling themselves "javaj2eeguy" on the 24th [link
] and the second by another unregistered user called "oracle9i" on the 29th [link
]. Both of the posts attempt to explain away the fees being asked for.
On December 3rd 2007 we see more posts from unregistered users saying that Accurum are ok. One from "priya gill" [link
] and another from "ajay_kr" [link
] some 30 minutes later. FW Admin is quick to note something not being quite right and asks a very simple question.
Are you related? [link]
Thank you priya gill and ajay_kr for your comments. Let me ask you one thing:
Are you related? Because both of your posts were made from the same IP address which traces back to.... New Jersey!
Now, where are Accurum Technologies based? Ah yes, New Jersey....
I leave the readers to come to their own conclusions.
For those that are unfamiliar with IP traces, the chances of two totally unrelated, separate and distinct people posting from the same address to the same forum and thread, is in the thousands to one. Linking that to New Jersey and the very real possibility that these two posters are in some way affiliated to the "company" places it into the millions. Coincidental?
Later it is also noted by FW Admin that the IP location of one of the other posters called oracle9i, is also from Edison, New Jersey and the home of Accurum Technologies LLC. It is a safe bet that the similar post made by "javaj2eeguy" is also related, as noted by support member Frazzle.
So now we see four seemingly unrelated posts all having an underlying agenda, and one that is probably easiest described as a conspiracy and subterfuge.
Are these the actions of a honest company we ask? Obviously not, they are much more akin to the typical actions of internet scammers who get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. Not only this but they do not have the intellectual capacity to simply bugger off back under the rock from which they crawled.
Like A Record... It Goes Around And Around
During December 2007 we see mentions again of both CLD and Optima, as well as the continued requests about Accurum. Now each of the three companies are tied together in a neat little bundle, and posters are simply pointed to existing threads to answer queries.
In an attempt to make life easier for everyone some additional information is pulled from the internet. Considering that most questioners are a specific ethnic and demographic group, an article is created which attempts to point people to the US Embassy in New Delhi, India. The article posted on FraudWatchers.ORG is called "Visa Information for Indian Nationals" [link
One vital piece of information from this is the following.
...no firm or person can help you [link]
There are individuals and companies who are taking advantage of Indian citizens by suggesting they can provide a short cut to an American visa. These people are deceiving innocent people into wasting their money and making it harder for legitimate travelers to obtain visa appointments.
We especially want to tell everyone in India that no firm or person can help you obtain a U.S. visa. The only way to obtain a U.S. visa is to present legitimate documents.
It carries on through to January 2008 and beyond, in what seems to be a never-ending wash of people asking questions. Many times FW Admin asks for people to send documented evidence of paying fees, or for anyone with a fee request in writing to send it on. Alas, not one single person from the hundreds can be bothered to send the required evidence. Yet, they still demand answers from Support staff who are steadily becoming frustrated.
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