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Watch those H1B hires, FBI tells American firms

H1B aspirants in the US could face stringent background checks if you go by the latest advisory by the FBI for employers.
IANS | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JUL 17, 2007 11:45 AM IST

H1B aspirants in the US could face stringent background checks if you go by the latest advisory by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for employers.

The FBI has laid out specific scenarios on its website for employers to check for possible 'spies' in their organisations.

It has listed 'students and educators' as one of the favourite 'cover-ups' used by agents. That's not all. The FBI, in its website, has put up a list of 'collection strategies' that agents use to get their hands on US technology.

Here's a sample:

"You hire a foreign-born engineer who has been educated in this country. Over a 10-15 year period, she rises to mid-level management. Then, she returns to her home country - where she gets paid by that government to set up a business that competes with yours."

Indian students and teachers in the US have termed it as discriminatory.

"An F1 is a non-immigrant visa. A student applying for an F1 visa at a US consulate is expected to return to his country and not stay back. If he even hints at staying back permanently, the consular officer rejects the visa application summarily.

"So the US government fully expects that these highly skilled, educated, trained people will one day return to their homeland to share that knowledge. Add to that the state of immigration laws in this country that discourage skilled people from migrating here in any case.

"H1B's have now become a lottery, and the average wait time for an MS to get a green card is 6-12 years. So why does the fact of people returning to their home countries, come as a shock to FBI?" asks Kaushik Biswas, a student.

Sample another interesting collection strategy on the FBI website.

A series of university students and professors from overseas take jobs in research labs on campus and get involved in related military projects. Individually, they learn only bits and pieces. But collectively, when they pass that information back to their home country, it paints a telling picture of US defence initiatives.

That's not all. The agency is willing to help by offering a training programme to spot these collectives, or sleeper cells placed in the US.

Called the Counter Intelligence Domain programme, the agency has been meeting university professors, students and staff and has been offering them solutions for dealing with potential terrorist threats on campus.

Last month, agents from the FBI met officials of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and other top research universities in New England to discuss the new 'security' initiative.

WPI president Dennis Berkey said the meeting was about taking precautions to protect sensitive research and "how to be more aware of folks around you, how to take certain precautions with your information in your data.

"Businesses and institutes already know how to protect themselves without FBI help. As for the lady 'who returns to her home country', isn't it a touch paranoid to model Asian-born R&D executives as spies just because their home-country governments have decided to engage in venture-capitalism?" asks Camille, a researcher who is employed in an American firm.

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