The Con Is On: How to 'Game' Business Visas

Published on April 1st, 2011

In 1973 an entertaining film entitled, “The Sting” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford was released.  These actors portrayed two con artists who, during the Depression, engaged in an elaborate hoax to steal the money from a mob boss that involved creating the elaborate illusion of a “bookmaking” operation in which the people being conned thought that they were betting on a horse race while, in reality, there was no race, just a scheme designed to separate the victim of the sting known as the “mark.” In the film, when the players wanted to signal to each other that all was in place and they should go forward with their conniving plan, the person giving the instruction to his confederates would rub the side of his nose signaling that the “con is on.” My purpose in writing this commentary today is not to discuss the merits of a film.  My purpose is to explain how the immigration system is easily gamed by so many different players–with my specific focus being on how aliens intentionally game the business visas. The State Department issues various visas to aliens seeking to enter the United States.  Visas generally come in two broad categories–immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.  An immigrant visa provides an alien with the lawful authority to remain in the United States for the balance of his (her) life provided that these immigrants abide by the laws of our nation and do not become convicted of committing felonies or other serious crimes. Immigrants must also meet certain residency requirements so that they do not legally abandon their domiciles in the United States.  Aliens who have been granted immigrant visas are given Alien Registration Receipt Cards also known as “Green Cards.”  They are placed on the pathway to United States citizenship on the day that they are granted immigrant status.  Each year more than 1.1million aliens are accorded this lawful status. Nonimmigrant visas, as the name implies, does not confer lawful immigrant status upon the alien who is the recipient of one of these visas.  There are a number of such nonimmigrant visas that range from tourist visas, student visas, visas for journalists, diplomats, and various temporary worker visas to name the most common. An alien who has been granted a visa is not guaranteed entry into the United States but enables him to travel to the United States where the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) Inspector makes the decision as to whether or not to admit the alien into the United States.  Not only does the visa specify what activities the foreign visitor may or may not engage in, but the visa also stipulates how long that alien may remain in the United States. One of the categories of nonimmigrant visas is the B-1 visa which enables an alien to remain in the United States for no more than 6 months.  This is referred to as a business visa but does not permit the alien who is admitted under this visa to perform work in the United States in the conventional sense.  A business visa is supposed to enable an alien to visit a factory or office in the United States to attend a conference or inspect a facility to see how a business operation is working.  An alien admitted under a B-1 visa does not, however, have the authority to work, in a conventional sense at a place of employment. Last week journalist Dan Rather appeared on his news broadcast, aptly name, “Dan Rather Reports” that was broadcast on HDTV News.  His segment for this program was entitled “Visa Loophole” and detailed how aliens were applying for B-1 visas while their true intentions involved actually working in the United States for a salary, something that the B-1 visa does not permit the alien to work in the United States. Dan Rather’s report showed how easily foreign workers were securing B-1 visas and then seizing on the laxity in the program to displace American workers in high tech jobs. The issue that needs to be understood is that not all illegal aliens run our nation’s borders.  In fact, it is estimated that an estimated 40 percent of the illegal alien population in the United States involves aliens who violate the terms of the visas that the State Department provides these aliens and, because there is no real oversight to make certain that aliens abide by the terms of their admission, this component of the system enables millions of aliens to be admitted through ports of entry and then violate the terms of their admission.  The government estimates that there are about 5 million illegal aliens in our country who were admitted into the United States and then violated the terms of their admission.  Currently ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has only assigned about 300 special agents to seek and locate such visa violators. Last year Casey Wian, a correspondent with CNN interviewed me for a story he was doing about this important aspect of the immigration system. When students take exams at school a teacher or other person in a position of authority acts as a proctor, to make certain that there is no cheating.  The time has long since come for the immigration system to also have meaningful safeguards to deter cheating that, especially in this tough economic environment, does not cost Americans their jobs.

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