Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

FBI Warns Employers About Potential ‘Spies’


The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released a controversial warning about potential spies. In the notice, the FBI advises employers to be on the lookout for suspicious people who have favorite “disguises,” including representatives of research institutes; visiting business professionals and scientists “who want to tour your state-of-the-art plants and operations worldwide”; tourists or visitors on nonimmigrant visas; diplomatic officials; false front companies; and students and educators. The notice warns about hypothetical scenarios such as: “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.”

According to news reports and blog entries, Indian students, among others, are not pleased by the FBI’s broad-brush characterization. Kaushik Biswas, a student, noted that “[a] student applying for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate is expected to return to his country and not stay back [in the U.S.]. If he even hints at staying back permanently, the consular officer rejects the visa application summarily. So the U.S. 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. H-1Bs 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?” A researcher employed by an American company, “Camille,” noted that “[b]usinesses 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?”

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