We have learned from AILA that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) has commenced a broad review and assessment of the H-1B program. Approximately 20,000 Applications from Vermont and an equal number from California have been forwarded to the FDNS, to allow it to conduct site visits.
Where: Site visits may occur either at the H-1B employer’s principal place of business and/or at the H-1B nonimmigrant’s work location, as indicated in Part 5 of the Form I-129. FDNS will not reschedule the visit and so, employers must be prepared to entertain Officers when they visit. An Attorney will be allowed to be present by phone if required.
What: During the H-1B site visit, the FDNS officer will normally verify information contained in a specific immigration petition, irrespective of the number of H-1B petitions filed by the employer. The FDNS Office will normally have a copy of the petition. The Officer will request to speak with the employer’s representative who normally executes petitions. However, if the representative is not available, the Officer will ask to speak with any other authorized representative. The FDNS Officer will request specific information about the employer’s business, locations, and number of employees. The Officer may request to review a copy of the Company’s tax returns, quarterly wage reports, and/or other company documentation to evidence that it is a bona fide business. The FDNS officer may also request confirmation that the signature on the I-129 petition is genuine. Questions about the nature of the position, job title, salary, work location may also be asked. You could be asked to provide the Officer with a copy of the employee’s most recent pay stub, W-2, contact information, etc. The Officer could also request the employer to provide a list of current employees. Follow up interviews with the H-1B employee and other employees may also be part of the site visit. The Officer may also take photographs of the facility.
How Long: From our experience, site visits normally last between 15 minutes to an hour.
Rights: FDNS has indicated that it does not need a subpoena in order to complete the site visit because USCIS regulations governing the filing of immigration petitions allow the government to take testimony and conduct broad investigations relating to the petitions. The instructions for the current version of the Form I-129 contain a section outlining the USCIS’ Compliance Review and Monitoring Methods. In these instructions, the USCIS states that its verification methods may include but are not limited to: review of public records and information; contact via written correspondence, the Internet, facsimile or other electronic transmission, or telephone; unannounced physical site inspections of residences and places of employment; and interviews. The instructions also indicate that the USCIS will provide an opportunity to address any adverse or derogatory information that may result from compliance review, verification, or site visit after a formal decision is made on the case or after the agency has initiated adverse action, which may result in revocation or termination of an approval. If such information is not provided by USCIS when it issues the adverse action, FDNS has indicated that the employer may request a copy through the Freedom of Information Act.
Request the name, title and contact information for the site investigator. If the investigator identifies himself as a USCIS FDNS contractor, request a business card with a toll free number to obtain confirmation of his credentials prior to providing any information.
Retain copies of the I-129 Petition for your record. Review this documentation before attempting to responding to the investigator. Contact our Office if you need assistance.