Does the US government do background checks on your education when issuing work visas?
September 28, 2012 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I lied on my CV. Does the US government do background checks on your education when issuing work visas?

Blah. Okay, so I was laid off from my job two years ago. I had quite a bit of trouble finding a new job and had a mounting pile of financial obligations, so out of desperation, I took some bad advice and exaggerated about my education on my CV (I said I graduated from a technical program, when in reality, I only finished one year of the three year program.). Then I got the job. Yay!

I don't have a job which requires any sort of professional designation. In fact, many people who do the same work as I do, don't have any formal training on the subject. In the two years that I've been here, I've received two promotions and am one of the highest performing employees. In other words, despite having lied about my education, I have the appropriate skills to do the job and I'm damn good. Not to mention the fact that I work in a niche sector and there just aren't very many of people like me to go around.

.... which had led me to this point, where I have an opportunity to help out other hubs in the USA (I am Canadian). This is great and all, but now I'm worried that the process of applying for a work visa might bring my exaggerated education to the surface.

I know, I know. I never should have said I finished that three year program to begin with, but I was in a bad place financially, and what's done is done. I realize now that they probably would have hired me if I hadn't lied at all. Despite the fact that my company adores me and I am excellent at my job, I don't think they would take it too kindly if I were to come clean now... so that option is off the table. My other option (and maybe only option?) is that I keep refusing to be sent out of the country. However, we have a lot of people charging to overhead right now and they want to shuffle around the talent within the company before they even consider laying people off. Another option, which would be much more feasible if my industry were booming right now, is to just find another job and this time be 100% honest. The job market, however, isn't too promising right now.

So I come to the hive mind. Does anyone know what the work visa process looks like from the government's perspective? Specifically the US government? I know that on our company's end, we provide CV's for the person traveling, as well as the person responsible for said person, at the destination office. Included is also a letter from the company outlining the work mandate. I am generally of the "don't fuck with the government" school of thought, but was wondering if anyone knew if they actually back checked your credentials to see if they check out, or if a letter of intent from the company and basic things like citizenship and criminal record are the only real important things. If they did a background check and saw that it didn't add up, would they just deny my visa (and potentially make it difficult if not impossible to enter the US in the future... for work? or in general?), or would they alert my company as well?

Like I said, I am not lying about having a professional degree or even having any special certification. My job does not require any specific type of training. The lie was that I completed a three year program of technical school, when I only did one year, and the program is only loosely related to my current field, anyway - and many of my peers have been hired without any such qualifications at all! As far as I know, my not having this diploma doesn't represent any liability for my company legally, only that they hired a "liar" (who has only ever lied about this!).

Does anyone have any insight? Please no lectures about lying, and I have already considered the possible consequences if my company finds out on their own, separate of a visa application gone bad, so we don't really need to discuss that either.

Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you provide an updated CV with your application, leaving off Education all together?

That would probably be the best way to deal with this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:37 AM on September 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

That was my thought as well. I know nothing at all about the overall process but am also inclined to be quite truthful in my dealings with governments, so it seems to me that since your old CV certainly doesn't include all of your promotions and whatnot, an update is in order, and that, in the process of editing, the false information should be dropped completely. Moreover, one might easily imagine a busy company not even reading the updated, superficially-acceptable CV of a valued employee, and if the three-year program has no bearing on your job, an outside agency wouldn't even be looking for it.

IANAL, I do not support lying on one's CV in the first place, et cetera.
posted by teremala at 8:50 AM on September 28, 2012

Depending on what kind of work status you'd be getting, yes: the USCIS will want you to provide transcripts and a copy of your diploma with your application.

I agree with the above posters, and think it would be best if you removed that line from your CV entirely.
posted by phunniemee at 8:59 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

What kind of visa? Because yes, all the work visa applications I've dealt with have required a copy of the diploma and transcripts, like phunniemee says.

But it almost sounds like you either work in the US and will be travelling to other countries for short work visits OR you work in another country and will be travelling to the US for short work visits? In that case I wouldn't worry as much, the visa requirements to come to the US in those circumstances are generally not as robust.

If you are trying to get an H1B or something more permanent in the US I'd be a lot more worried.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:46 AM on September 28, 2012

Since no one has said it yet, here's the default advice: Consult with an attorney who specializes in immigration, preferably corporate immigration, but perhaps not your firm's corporate immigration attorney.

If you're talking about a NAFTA-based TN visa, here's the state department's info on what you need. It does include significant penalties for misrepresentation.
posted by Mad_Carew at 9:55 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had to submit all transcripts for my H1-B visa. (Cdn working in US). I think you need to take the line off your resume or you would be expected to submit a copy of your diploma as verification. As requested I will refrain from discussing lying but I would assume the US government doesn't take to it well.
posted by bquarters at 1:11 PM on September 28, 2012

And the visa process is thorough and requires either you or your company hiring an immigration lawyer on your behalf, as far as I have experienced. And it's not cheap.
posted by bquarters at 1:13 PM on September 28, 2012

For a TN visa you would also be required to submit your diploma and transcript. NONE of the documentation you present for your visa (resume, offer letter, job description, etc) should mention you completing this technical program -- if anything does, then they'll want you to provide proof.

If they did a background check and saw that it didn't add up, would they just deny my visa (and potentially make it difficult if not impossible to enter the US in the future... for work? or in general?), or would they alert my company as well?

Everyone above has mentioned how important this is, but do you want to hear the worst case scenario? The worst case is that you get arrested and dragged before a judge in immigration court, get convicted of an offense, maybe serve some time, and then have to face special procedures if you ever want to enter the US for the rest of your life, now that you have a criminal record. IANAL, and I don't think it's likely, but yes the stakes are indeed this high. I have been advised (again IANAL, TINLA) that when people are denied because of one little item, and show up the next day (or hours after the first attempt!) with a fresh copy of all documentation that magically doesn't have the problem line? That's what happens to them.

If they decide to deny your visa and determine that some degree of non-criminal misrepresentation, deception, or fraud is going on, you might only be denied entry to the USA for ten years, including personal and business travel. This is the same punishment as for anyone caught violating the terms of their visa after they get it, like overstaying for example. Get caught overstaying and you'll be denied entry for ten years. They consider a ten year ban the lenient option, compared to a lifetime ban.

If your visa application is merely found insufficient and denied for this job, then that's okay, you are simply turned back and discouraged from applying for this job (that certain position at that company) ever again. If they deny a visa application based on some detail of your background or the job, you aren't permitted to "start over" and apply for that same job with a different description, you have to appeal the previous decision somehow. Pretending that it isn't a re-application is a good way to get brought before a judge.

When a visa application is denied, the procedure doesn't include an immediate alert sent to your former potential employer, but you WILL be denied entry to the country that day (if applying in person). Your employer will quickly figure out that you didn't report for work. If you enter the country as a tourist and try to report for work, your employer will quickly notice that you don't have the paperwork necessary to get an SSN to be paid. If your company is applying by mail, I imagine they'll read the denial letter sent in response.

So yeah, in short: they DO check, they CAN impose long term consequences you don't want, so avoid risking it in the first place. Lying about the professional degree would have caused huge problems; lying about this extra education definitely has potential to [permanently] sink this application. On all visa paperwork, don't include anything you can't prove.

Hope you find a way to drop this technical program and get the visa.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:24 PM on September 28, 2012

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