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Unannounced USCIS site visits for L-1 Visa holders

The Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) unit of USCIS has begun inspecting L-1 visa holders as planned.

L-1 petitions are selected at random for an unannounced site visit at the worksite address that is listed on the petition and USCIS will not target individual companies or industries.

The visits will be conducted exclusively by federal immigration officers (the use of contractors has been phased out), and FDNS officers are required to identify themselves as government officials performing an immigration site visit.

The officer must present credentials and provide a business card to the interviewee that lists the District Director with jurisdiction.

FDNS has inspected (and likely is continuing to inspect) H-1B holders for several years.

L-1 visa holders and their employers are the latest target.

FDNS is concerned that the information submitted to USCIS is accurate and is focused on detecting fraud in applications for immigration benefits.

The FDNS officer conducting the review will be trained to initially ask the L-1 beneficiary a standard set of 10 questions, which should be answerable based on information submitted in the L-1 petition. Although USCIS has not yet released these questions, these questions are likely to include:

What is your job title?
What is your salary?
What is your length of service?
Do you have direct reports? If so, what is their education level?
Who do you report to?
Have you paid for any of the filing fees or attorneys fees in conjunction with the L-1 application?
Have you filed for permanent residence (I-140)?
Has there been any discussion of such filing?
Is any other application pending with USCIS?
What is your current residence?
What is your marital status?
What is your email address?
Have you been in the U.S. in any other status before, including visitor?

The officer will also give a written request for information to be completed in a certain period of time and returned.

As with all site visits, USCIS noted that participation by the petitioner or beneficiary is completely voluntary and that they are entitled to have an attorney present in person or by phone.

If either the petitioner or beneficiary indicates an unwillingness to proceed at any point during the site visit, the officer will terminate the visit and complete the site visit report.

In addition to the on-site interview of the petitioner and beneficiary, the FDNS officer may rely on other methods to verify petition legitimacy, including a review of public records, contact with the petitioner or beneficiary via phone or email, and internet research.

Employers should be prepared to submit and/or comment on any information submitted with the original petition. Based on the information gathered, FDNS will ultimately make a finding of “verified” or “not verified” in the site visit report.

What should you do when an FDNS officer arrives?

We recommend that no one speak with FDNS (other than a general greeting) without an attorney present or on the phone.

You may say that it is a company policy and offer to call the attorney at that time.

You may offer to set up another time if the attorney is not available.

Keep in mind that you have a right to counsel that the FDNS officer cannot refuse to recognize.

You have no obligation to speak to the FDNS officer without your attorney present.

Before answering questions, we advise that you review the I-129 and exhibits and note any changes so you can point them out in your answers.

Before submitting information to the government, we also advise that you consult your counsel or have counsel prepare the response directly.

Although usually FDNS inspections are brief encounters and although you have nothing to hide, miscommunications can result from these inspections.

The officer is not authorized to re-adjudicate a petition, make a finding of fraud based on the site visit itself, or accept a withdrawal of the petition.

A finding of “not verified” does not automatically result in petition revocation, but the data will be forwarded to the USCIS Service Center, which can, in turn, issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR).

In such a situation, the petitioner will be provided 30 days to respond to the Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR).