Easy Money in the US? Illegal work in the United States

Sadly, once again, an Israeli entrepreneur who opened numerous kiosks in US malls, has been prosecuted in the US for, among other things, illegally hiring foreign workers (Israelis) to sell his products. [See for example, the Marker at http://www.themarker.com/wallstreet/1.3108743]. After military service, many young Israelis are lured to the US to make “easy money” by selling Israeli cosmetics in malls and shopping centers. They are often assured of a job, housing and the “good life” of the American experience. Unfortunately, many times they are deceived into believing that everything is legal and proper. The problem is, however, that many times these unsuspecting, young Israelis enter the US solely on B-1/B-2 tourist visas. Under no circumstances can an individual work in the US on a tourist visa. If an alien is caught working in the US without a specific work visa, he will be removed from the US and barred re-entry for several years. In certain cases, particularly when there exists a sophisticated scheme to violate US immigration laws, the foreign worker can be criminally prosecuted.

How does one know if he is the recipient of a valid work visa? While there are numerous types of work visas to the US, there are very few that would apply to a young, unemployed or underemployed Israeli. The most common visa for short term work in the US where higher education is not necessarily required is the H-2 visa.  These are visas granted to individuals for seasonal employment and where there exists a shortage of such workers in the US. The more common work visas to the US – H1B, L, E, O and R visas – require special skills or existing employment in a company that is transferring the employee to the US. Alternatively, US employers can apply for a green card (permanent residence) for a foreigner through the immigration process. However, such applications are very costly and take a long time.  Rarely, do the above described kiosk schemes involve applications for green cards.

Unfortunately, these types of schemes have soured the US immigration system on young Israeli visa applicants. A high percentage of young Israelis have been denied visas to the US for such reasons. In addition, the high denial rates have contributed to Israelis not being afforded access to the Visa Waiver program, like many Europeans, whereby a visitor to the US does not require a visa.

If an Israeli is suspected of working in the US, he likely will have his visa canceled. Once canceled, it is difficult to obtain another visa for many years. If the person has been removed or deported from the US, then he is barred re-entry for several years. The only remedy is to request a waiver (a type of forgiveness), which usually requires legal assistance and is expensive.

The moral of the story is that if the offer to come and work in the US sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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