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Total FDNS visits nationwide will not increase, official says
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had previously announced that it will be expanding the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program to L-1A extension petitions in the “near future.”
While specific details regarding the start date for the visits have not been published, USCIS confirmed that a pilot program and inspector training are scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014. “We don’t expect many L-1A site visits to take place this fiscal year,” said Sarah Kendall, associate director of the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) directorate. Under the site visit program historically, FDNS officers conducted random, unannounced pre- and post-adjudication site inspections to verify information contained in H-1B and R-1 petitions. From the program’s inception in December 2011 through June 2013, over 57,000 site visits were conducted.
Speaking to corporate immigration professionals at the Council for Global Immigration’s 2014 Symposium in June, Kendall said the agency was pleased with the site visit program “and deem it a success mostly because of the cooperation of public and private sector participants like you.”
She announced that the total number of FDNS site visits nationwide will not increase with the expansion of L-1 visits, indicating a reduction of H-1B and R-1 audits.
The expansion of the site visit program to include L-1s came in response to an August 2013 report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General suggesting ways to reduce fraud and standardize adjudications across the L-1 intracompany transferee program.
Kendall said the selection process for inspection will be completely random and unannounced. Visits will not be targeted and not based on fraud indicators. The site inspection program is entirely voluntary and can be terminated by either the business or the visa holder. “It’s important to note that if the business or visa holder is unwilling to participate in the site visit, the FDNS officer will terminate the visit and note in their report that the visit was terminated at the employer’s or beneficiary’s request. That does not mean that there will be an automatic adverse finding,” she said. However, employers should expect a follow-up process to be conducted by fax, phone or e-mail.
During an inspection, FDNS officers will investigate whether the petitioning employer and foreign national beneficiary have knowledge of the petition contents and whether the company is in compliance with the terms specified in the petition. The inspector may ask to review documents, such as the beneficiary’s recent paystubs. Officers will not be there to make findings of fraud or adjudicate decisions on immigration applications, Kendall said.
Officers will consider a standard set of inquiries during the site visit, including:
Afterward, the FDNS will determine whether the review is verified or not verified. A “not verified” finding may lead to further action, such as a request for evidence or notice of intent to revoke.
The L expansion is anticipated to be a phased approach, initially focused on new office L-1A petitions that request extensions of stay, but may be extended to other types of L-1 cases in the future, Kendall said. “We think it’s important to get this right, so we’re starting relatively small but statistically significant and then we’ll decide if we’ve got the compliance we want or if we move forward.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him at @SHRMRoy
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