GOV - Computer Glitches Blamed for 'Immigration and Naturalization Service' Error : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: Computer Glitches Blamed for INS Error

April 7, 2000 DAILY BRIEFING

By Juliana Gruenwald, National Journal's Technology Daily

The Immigration and Naturalization Service Thursday announced that an outside auditor has found that the agency gave out over 21,000 more temporary visas for skilled foreigners than it was allowed to by law in fiscal year 1999.

The auditing firm KPMG discovered that the INS allocated 21,888 H-1B visas above the congressionally mandated cap of 115,000 for 1999.

The firm was hired to do the audit after the INS discovered last year that problems with its computer system resulted in the issuance of too many of these visas, saying at the time that it may have given out between 10,000 and 20,000 visas above the cap.

The firm has finished the first part of its auditdetermining the amount of visas given out in 1999.

The INS is still awaiting the results of two other parts of the audit aimed at determining what caused the computer glitches and what can be done to ensure there is not future problems, according to an INS spokeswoman.

The INS said KPMG came up with the overcount by compiling H-1B visa figures from the agency's four service centers and analyzing them and using a random sample of the data.

The INS originally had suggested that the discrepancy be fixed by using H-1B visas from future years to make up for the extra visas issued in 1999. But several lawmakers and industry representatives blasted that idea.

The agency now says that it will wait to see what Congress does with proposed legislation to raise the cap on H-1B visas before acting. The high-tech industry and other business interests say additional visas are needed to address the skilled worker shortage in the United States.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee, is among those who have criticized the INS for problems it has had in keeping track of the number of H-1B visas that have been issued.

"The taxpayers would be well-served by remedial math training for top managers at the INS," Smith said in a statement. "It would cost less than hiring a big-name accounting firm every time the agency must count past 10."

He and some industry officials also expressed concern about the audit, saying the methodology the firm was asked to use to conduct the audit was flawed.

When asked what impact if any, the overcount may have on the H-1B debate, Lynn Shotwell, legal counsel and director of government relations for the American Council on International Personnel, said it shows "how much we need these visas."


-- (, April 10, 2000

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