An earlier blog post "Silicon Valley Employers Need to Prepare for Surprise USCIS Visits" described the "new normal" of USCIS employees or contractors showing up unexpectedly and inquiring about past visa petitions and foreign national workers. A recently held Department of Homeland Security program, titled, "2009 Government and Employers: Working Together to Ensure a Legal Workforce" sheds more light onto the types of visits being conducted.
Ronald Atkinson, Chief of Staff of USCIS' Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) office, explained the three types of site visits that are currently being conducted:
- Risk Assessment Program fraud study. Applicable to any type of benefit program, including family and employment-based visas, this study is part of a joint program between USCIS and ICE (Immigration Customs and Enforcement). Applications and petitions are chosen at random, usually on a post-approval basis, for visits to help in designing profiles of potential fraud.
- Targeted site visits. These visits take place where fraud is suspected, and consist of a visit to ask questions. Advance notice, including notice to counsel, is supposed to be provided.
- Administrative site visits. These relate to religious worker and H-1B petitions. They generally are conducted by contractors who know nothing of immigration law. Religious worker visits are performed under the regulations for that category. For H-1B site visits, the contractors have been equipped with a set of specific questions, and all employers/beneficiaries should be asked pretty much the same questions, primarily reaching the issues of whether there's really an employer there, whether the employer knows it filed the petition, and whether the beneficiary is doing the work and receiving the wage indicated on the petition. H-1B visits are done on a post-adjudication basis, and are randomly selected. Each employer should receive only one such visit, but may receive different visits for different sites.
All employers should develop a plan in the event of a site visit. Several steps employers should take are provided on the earlier blog post. Employer should also consider contacting an immigration lawyer to assist them with developing a plan.
Information about the DHS program was compiled from AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09112060 (posted Nov. 20, 2009).