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Feds crack down on H-1B visa abuse, fraud

They also issue new guidelines making it harder to bring foreign tech workers into the US under the program Silicon Valley has come to love.

Never mind baseball, Monday is also opening day of the H-1B visa season and the Trump administration is guaranteeing the game will be fiercely competitive.

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Monday is the H-1B season opener.

KRT/Bay Area News Group/MCT via Getty Images

April 3 is the first day people can start submitting H-1B visa petitions for the new fiscal year, and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services marked it by announcing a new crackdown on abuse and fraud of the program that's become a pathway to Silicon Valley employment for many foreign workers.

The temporary visa program, created in 1990, is meant to help US companies recruit skilled foreign workers where there's a shortage of qualified American candidates. But, as the USCIS and others have said, too many qualified American workers are overlooked for jobs filled by visa workers.

So, in the name of protecting American workers, the USCIS says it will take a "more targeted approach" when making visits to H-1B petitioners and work sites. It will focus on applicants where basic business information can't be verified, companies with a higher ratio of H-1B employees and employers applying for petitioners who work off site.

Meanwhile, just Friday, the USCIS issued much-anticipated new H-1B guidelines, aimed at reserving the H-1B visas for very high-skilled (and thus higher-paid) professionals. They include a requirement that computer programmers applying for the visas provide additional information to prove their jobs are complex or specialized and require professional degrees.

The Justice Department also weighed in on Monday, cautioning employers petitioning for the visas not to discriminate against US workers.

"US workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler.

Last year, the cap of 85,000 H-1B visas was reached less than a week after the application period opened up, CNN reported. During that time, 236,000 petitions were submitted.

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