After H1-B, The L-1 Visa Program is the Next Worker Immigration Program to be Scammed

Executive Summary

  • Corporations have aggressively scammed the H1-B visa program.
  • The next program they have their eyes on the L-1 visa program.


In investigating the corruption of the H1-B program, we came upon the following quotation that foretells what will likely happen to the L-1 visa program, but companies that have already figured out how to rig the H1-B program. This was the opening statement in the senate by Chuck Grassley.

Take, for example, the L visa program. The L-1 visa is for temporary intra-company transfers of personnel from a company’s overseas office to its U.S. offices. A U.S. company may transfer personnel to the U.S. to work in a managerial, executive, or “specialized knowledge” capacity under the L visa program. In fiscal year 2013, USCIS approved 11,944 L-1 petitions. Unlike the H-1B program, there is no cap on the number of L-1 visas that may be issued each year and there is no requirement that employers pay L-1 workers the locally prevailing wage or even the actual wage being paid to similarly qualified employees. The problems with the L visa are not as apparent, especially since USCIS squashed an internal report that highlighted fraud and abuse. The agency seemingly didn’t want another black eye as they had with the H-1B program.

Because it is not clear which employees should be granted L-1B visas, and because there are no numerical limits on the number that can be approved each year, the potential number of beneficiaries is limitless.” And yet, a liberalized definition of specialized knowledge – implemented by executive memo and not by regulations requiring public comment – is exactly what we can expect from the Administration’s promised executive actions. Regarding L-1workers opening new offices in the U.S., the OIG found that “that there are program integrity risks with new office petitions” and that “[n]ew office petitions and extensions are inherently susceptible to abuse because much of the information in the initial petition is forward-looking and speculative.” – Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers (Senate Statement)

How Does $1.21 Per Hour Sound…For Working Under an L-1 Visa in the US?

Just last year, a Fremont, California tech company, Electronics for Imaging, Inc., was found by the Department of Labor to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act for having grossly underpaid a group of Indian nationals who the company had transferred on L-1 visas from its office in India to install a new computer system at the headquarters facility in Fremont. Specifically, the company flew eight L-1B workers from Bangalore, India to California and paid them only $1.21 per hour to work 120-hour weeks.

The $1.21 hourly rate was equivalent to what the employees made in Indian rupees at their workplace in India. Importantly, though the company was found by DOL to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act for paying the workers below the State’s minimum wage, it did not apparently violate any of the terms or conditions of the visa program because there is no prevailing wage requirement. – Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers (Senate Statement)

This is also covered in the next quotation.

The agency found that the Silicon Valley employer “paid as little as $1.21 per hour in Indian rupees to employees brought in temporarily from India..The employee came from Bangalore, India, through the L-1 program. EFI failed to pay California minimum wage and overtime compensation to several employees, some of whom worked as many as 122 hours per week.” – Sold Out

Overstating the Skills of L-1 Visa Holders

The actual skills of those that are approved through the H1-B program have been consistently far below the actual requirements of the program as we cover in the article How the Pay Level of H1-B Visa Workers Contradicts Industry’s High Skills Arguments, the same issue applies to the L-1 program.

Mike Emmons, a Siemens contractor who had consulted for the company for six years, also stepped forward to expose how so-called specialized workers with L-1Bs were “just average [skilled] people.” Emmons witnessed one of his replacements “reading the introductory textbook to using the database language — a skill level well below what an L-1 visa purportedly requires.” He shared with Congress who one Tata employee told displaced American workers at Siemens that the L-1Bs made “$3,000 per month. Of that $2,000 is paid as expenses to work in the US and $1,000 paid in Indian rupees. They get $24,000/year tax free to work in the USA while tax-paying Americans go to the unemployment line.” – Sold Out

Furthermore, the L-1B program has a significant shortage of published information.

The Department of Professional Employees division of the AFL-CIO accurately described L-1B as a “black box.” The program “is not a long term investment in the US economy since only a small fraction of L-1B visa beneficiaries will be sponsored by the employers to say in the US permanently.” Moreover, the group summed up the lawmakers, the “L1-B visa is really about businesses having ready access to powerless, low wage workforce.” – Sold Out


With the H1-B visa program, companies showed that they were willing to tell any lie to import a low cost and controlled workforce into the US. The L-1 program is even more under the radar. Still, with offices in so many locations, it will be easy for companies to claim what is foreign labor is a transfer within the company.