The U.S. Department of State has confirmed that contractors on a pre-approved list at the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) are now auditing approved nonimmigrant petitions -- including H-1B and L-1 petitions -- in order to verify that information contained in the petitions is correct. The audits are creating significant delays for petition-based visa applicants at embassies worldwide.

Auditors may make a "cold call" to the U.S. employer who filed the petition, asking about the company's activities, location, employees, shareholders, etc., and may also review the company's website or use Google Earth to confirm the existence of a facility in the location specified on the petition. Contractors may also ask employers about the beneficiaries of these petitions -- the foreign nationals whom the employer wishes to employ (or continue employing) in nonimmigrant status.

Following verification, the contractors will create new "base petitioner records" in the KCC's Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) database. Until KCC verifies the petitions and updates these records, no consular officer at a U.S. embassy abroad may issue a petition-based visa to an applicant. Consular officers are also instructed to question visa applicants further in order to determine if the beneficiary information in the updated PIMS record is correct and complete.

Any adverse information the KCC contractor learns during an audit call may lead to denial of a beneficiary's visa application, even based on a previously approved petition, and may also affect the approvability of future petitions. Therefore, a U.S. employer who receives such a call should contact immigration counsel prior to providing any information so that (a) the auditor's name and credentials can be compared against the approved list; (b) counsel can be present on the call; (c) the employer can prepare adequately by reviewing the petition; and (d) the call can be documented appropriately.