L-1 Petitioners: Get Ready for USCIS Site Visits!

USCIS has announced that beginning in 2014, it will begin visiting certain L-1 employer petitioners post-approval.

This change is in response to an Office of Inspector General Report on how to make the L-1 process more “fraud proof.” At the outset, it appears that the program will be focused on the area of concern identified in the OIG report — visiting the sites of newer employers where a “new office” L-1 extension is being sought to confirm the legitimacy of the business and the information provided by the petition to USCIS. It could be expanded further to include large scale employers including those with Blanket L petitions.

The continued H-1B site visits and the new L-1 site visits should be taken very seriously by the employer and the employer should continue to keep its outside immigration counsel apprised on any changes to employment including job duties, location (even within the same commuting distance), placement at a client site, etc. We recommend an on-going dialogue to ensure that any future changes are reviewed and discussed and any necessary amendments are made to petition filings for H or L petitions.

We have seen the visits conducted at all types of employer – large companies and small – across all industries and the more H-1B workers that are employed at a company, the more likely it is for a repeat visit to occur.

Background: In July 2009, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created a new administrative process to conduct unannounced site visits to U.S. employers with approved and/or pending H-1B petitions. These visits are funded by the $500 “Fraud Fee” that new H and L employers are required to pay with petition filing. The visits continue to the present under the auspices of USCIS’ Fraud Detection and National Security Division (FDNS) and each of the past years show an increased number of site visits have been conducted. The site visits included questions directed to the HR person, the employee and/or any other individual at the site with knowledge of the employee and the employment (petition signatory).