USCIS Site Visits for H-1B and L-1 Visa Employers

Last Updated on November 29, 2023


In 2009, USCIS started the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program as an extra step to verify certain immigration petitions. The program, which is administered by the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS), initially focused on H-1B visas, but in 2014 it expanded to include L-1 petitions as well.

USCIS stated that its intent for the program was to take a “more targeted approach” towards employers of H-1B and L-1 visa holders in its petition verification site visits. Simultaneously, the U.S. Justice Department made it clear that companies should avoid discriminating against American workers in the hiring process, an act that the visa petitioning process and the compliance reviews are meant to curb. The message to employers is clear: comply with U.S. immigration laws or face severe penalties. Part of compliance may mean passing a random compliance review, which includes USCIS site visits.

It’s important for businesses to know just how USCIS chooses which sites to visit, what to expect during a site visit and how to prepare employees for the unannounced arrival of an immigration inspector.

How USCIS Site Visits are Chosen

USCIS site visits are selected at random and are carried out by authorities from FDNS as part of a broader compliance review. During these visits, FDNS collects information that informs the reviews of particular petitions to ensure they’re complying with U.S. immigration laws. Employers are not required to participate in a site visit, but cooperation is strongly encouraged, as refusing to participate may result in further investigations. If an employer chooses to stop a site visit, FDNS officers must oblige. Even if they don’t continue a physical inspection, officers will continue to review the case using all the documentation and information collected up to that point.

Since 2009, the number of inspections that FDNS completes each year has fluctuated. The number of site visits dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have remained lower than pre-pandemic levels in the past few years. However, visa holders and their employers should still be prepared for the possibility of a site visit.

What to Expect During USCIS Site Visits

Generally, FDNS compliance review site visits are unannounced.

Before the site visit, the inspector will verify, first, that your organization is legitimate, as represented in the visa petition. He or she will also need to verify all the information on record, including any supporting documents that may have been included with a particular petition.

Once on site, the inspector will likely take photographs of the workplace, review documents, and interview co-workers of the employee in order to verify information in the initial documentation, including salary, responsibilities and work location and workspace. At some point, the inspector will interview the employee under review to verify identity and ask basic questions such as how long the employee has worked there, how much he or she makes and what his or her responsibilities are. These questions are typically straightforward and not very invasive.

Following the site visit, the inspector will complete a Compliance Review Report based on his or her observations and submit that to USCIS. USCIS makes a final decision as to the compliance of the petition under review.

How to Prepare for USCIS Site Visits

The best way to prepare all your employees for a potential site visit, regardless of location, is to create and disseminate a company-wide policy. Employees should have a designated representative who will be the point person should an inspector arrive on location. The designated point person should know who to call and where to escort the inspector upon arrival. All H-1B and L-1 employees should be aware of the possibility of site visits and know how to handle them.

Being prepared with an action plan that’s thorough and widely understood across the company can help make a site visit, and the entire review process, go more smoothly. In addition, keeping documentation for each visa petition will make for a more effortless site visit.

Of course, using a simple, one-stop online platform like Envoy’s can help you store and view every document you need as soon as you need it, which reduces the stress of a site visit and allows for better cooperation with investigators.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you prepare for site visits, and visit our Resources Center for more information about H-1B and L-1 visas.

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