The Department of Labor (DOL) announced last week that they will begin more aggressively confronting visa program fraud and abuse. This change involves three parts:
- More aggressive enforcement of the non-immigrant visa program
- Prioritizing and publicizing investigations
- Prosecuting violators of the visa programs
To detect, investigate, and eliminate fraud and abuse, the DOL has directed over 200 Wage and Hour Divisions across the United States to use all their tools to conduct civil investigations and to enforce labor protections provided by the visa programs.
You can read more about the Department of Labor’s announcement on their website.
The DOL may provide immigration protection if your employer or former employer has violated visa program rules or has abused or mistreated you.
The DOL relies on information from employees or former employees so that they can investigate or prosecute abuse and fraud. U visas may be available for employees who have suffered physical or emotional injury because of such abuse or mistreatment. If your employer has mistreated or abused you, your assistance is critical to the DOL’s mission, and they may support your request for a U visa. You must report what happened, even if you currently are out of status.
The first step is reporting the abuse. You can contact the Wage and Hour Division toll-free at 1-866-487-9243. This process is confidential and easy to do over the phone in your language. If you do not have valid immigration status, first consult with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss your immigration options.
Abuses that should be reported to the DOL include:
- Under-reporting of hours you are forced to work
- Demands for repayment of visa costs after entry into the United States
- Withholding payment or payment below the wage stipulated in your contract
- Inadequate, illegal, or life-threatening living conditions
- Withholding food and water
- Limiting your freedom of mobility
- Withholding personal identification documentation (such as a passport or social security card)
The DOL’s responsibility is to administer and enforce the laws that protect workers in the United States. The agency takes allegations of workplace abuse very seriously. Regardless of immigration status, they will consider each case carefully and individually.
Do you need a lawyer?
If you feel comfortable communicating with the DOL on your own, call the agency toll-free at 1-866-487-9243. They will refer you to your local Wage and Hour Division Office. Then you can file a complaint against your employer.
An attorney is not required to obtain a U visa certification from the DOL. However, each Wage and Hour Division has different requirements for submitting a request. If you don’t have valid immigration status, we advise you to meet with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss your immigration options.
At Antonini & Cohen, we understand that contacting a federal agency without an attorney can be scary and stressful. Feel free to contact us if you have information that could help the DOL. We can guide you in enforcing your rights and the rights of others.