January 21, 2010
The SJ Mercury News reported that the US State Department prosecuted a San Mateo businessman for visa violations (see: SJMN Article). According to the article, the US State Department is finding that such visa violations highlights a problem in Silicon Valley - the use of visitor visas (B visa) to bring in foreign workers while avoiding the hassle of using H-1B visas.
The executive, who worked at the San Mateo accounting firm Portston, was fined $1,000 and given a year's probation last week after an investigation triggered by a whistle-blower's tip to the State Department. Officials said Hung Tran, the executive, instructed a Vietnamese man last April to say he would be training at the company, entitling him to a visitor visa, when the person actually was being brought to the US to help on a software design project, work requiring an H-1B.
The worker never obtained the visitor visa because a whistle-blower who worked for Portston and who had access to internal e-mails alerted the US consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, prompting an investigation.
Patrick Durkin, special agent in charge of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, said the case "may expose a larger problem in the Silicon Valley," that of employers trying to get around H-1B requirements.
Tran's lawyer, Christian Picone, said a trial ended in a hung jury and rather than incur the expense of a new trial, Tran agreed to plead to a misdemeanor. Benjamin Portusach, president of Portston, said Tran is no longer a partner in the firm.