On July 26, 2016 the American Immigration Lawyers Association Liaison Committee to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Vermont Service Center published tips for employers for handling site visits by agency officers. Under the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (“ASVVP”), officers from the Fraud Detection and National Security directorate (“FDNS”) of USCIS conduct worksite visits to verify the employment of H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrants. Cooperation with officers during such site visits is voluntary, but normally it is in an employer’s best interest to cooperate. When you are subjected to a site visit, alert your immigration attorney immediately, as counsel is permitted to be present for these inspections. Note, though, that the FDNS officer will not coordinate a site visit around counsel’s schedule. If your attorney cannot attend the site visit, make sure to write a detailed description of what took place during the inspection and provide the summary to the attorney.
FDNS officers typically arrive unannounced, and their visits typically take no more than one hour. When the FDNS officer arrives, s/he will typically ask for your HR representative or the company representative who signed the relevant immigration forms and documents in the petition. During the visit, the officer will verify, through interviews with the employee, HR representative, and/or other personnel, or other means:
- The legitimacy of the business operations (this could include taking photos of the facility)
- The validity of the information in the H-1B or L-1 petition
- Whether the employee is complying with the terms of the H-1B or L-1 petition (this could include requesting copies of paystubs or W-2s and questions regarding the employee’s salary, job title, and job duties)
If you are unable to provide all documents and information requested by the FDNS officer, you can request extra time. However, you should meet any given deadlines to ensure the Compliance Review Report is submitted in a timely manner. When you are visited by FDNS, make sure to ask for and record the officer’s credentials (name, title, contact information).
In completing site inspections, FDNS officers commonly raise red flags when the employee’s salary in pay statements does not match the amount listed on the H-1B or L-1 petition; or when reported income on the employee’s tax form does not match the stated salary. Questions about the legitimacy of the worksite also raise issues, such as cases where the work location on the petition is not an actual worksite or where the employee has a “virtual office” or an “empty office without equipment.” FDNS may also be concerned if the employee does not have a work email or telephone number.
To ensure you are adequately prepared for a site visit, employers hiring H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrants should develop policies and procedures for maintaining immigration files and handling site inspections. You should communicate these policies and procedures to HR, departments, staff, and signatories. In addition, H-1B and L-1 employees should be certain all information in their visa petitions is accurate. If you notice any discrepancies in the petitions, you should be prepared to explain them. Finally remember that any material changes in the H-1B or L-1 worker’s job duties, worksite or other facts could trigger an obligation to file amended petitions. Make sure to report such changes to your immigration counsel right away.