LTTS To Pay $9.9 Million To Resolve Visa Fraud Allegations In US
L&T Technology Services (LTTS) has agreed to pay $9,928,000 to resolve fraud allegations stating that it underpaid visa fees owed to the US in violation of the False Claims Act.
Between 2014 and 2019, the Indian company with offices in Edison, New Jersey, underpaid visa fees by acquiring inexpensive B-1 visas, rather than more expensive H-1B visas, the Attorney’s Office District of South Carolina said in a release.
The investigation leading to this settlement was initiated through the filing of a whistleblower (qui tam) complaint in the US District Court in Charleston, South Carolina.
“This settlement sends a clear message to those who seek to defraud the US government and exploit our nation’s laws, that you will be found and held accountable,” said Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent In Charge of HSI Charlotte, covering North and South Carolina.
LTTS, a publicly listed subsidiary of Larsen & Toubro Limited, provides services and personnel to companies in the US.
Most of the personnel are foreign nationals, who are required to have visas in order to lawfully enter or remain in the US.
B-1 visas generally do not permit visa holders to perform paid labor while in the US. According to the release, during the time period in question, that is between 2014 and 2019, fees for B-1 visas were between approximately $200 to $300, and there was no limit on the number of B-1 visas that could be issued. Although H-1B visas permit foreign nationals to perform paid labor while in this country, the visa fees for such work visas were between approximately $4,000 to $6,000. Additionally, such visas are more difficult to obtain, because they are limited by an annual cap of 65,000, to foreign nationals with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in an occupation requiring highly specialized knowledge; plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas annually to those in such occupations with a master’s degree or its equivalent.
“This settlement is a success in deterring companies in seeking to evade and violate the laws and regulations governing the non-immigrant visa programs managed by the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security,” said Chris Hileman, Special Agent in Charge, Department of State, Office of Inspector General.
The LTTS is cooperating with the US in this matter, and has taken significant steps to ensure compliance with US visa laws, the release stated.