Earlier this year, USCIS announced its intention to become even more scrupulous with its site visits to existing visa holders. The objective was to focus more attention on employers petitioning for off-site H-1B workers and employers with a high H-1B worker to U.S. worker ratio. With immigration audits top of mind in the government, employers need to be prepared for a USCIS site visit.
Here’s how it works: The USCIS chooses sites randomly and the Fraud Detection and National Security directorate (FDNS) conducts the audits as part of a broader compliance review.
Here are some strategies you can employ to make sure you’re ready in case an audit happens at your workplace:
Start with a plan for a USCIS site visit
It’s important that a specific person at each worksite where the company employs foreign national workers to greet the officer and prepare for a meeting. Receptionists and other receiving personnel should know how to respond and who to contact when an officer arrives. There should be consistent protocol at each worksite in order to ensure compliance but there should be a contact person (and a backup, in case the selected contact person is out of the office for the day) at every worksite.
Confirm officer’s validity
If this isn’t in a company’s USCIS site visit plan, it may be skipped, which could be important in the case of a fraudulent visit. Be sure that the receptionist or receiving personnel knows to ask for the ID and business card of the USCIS officer to confirm validity. The number on the business card can be used to confirm his or her identity should anyone have concerns.
Contact your attorney
As soon as the officer arrives and you’ve greeted he or she politely, contact your legal council. The officer typically will not reschedule the visit to allow the attorney to be physically present but may allow the attorney to participate via phone. He or she may even allow you to write down questions for your attorney before responding.
Your company should keep a record of the USCIS site visit, including the officer’s name, title and contact information. You should also be sure to include the petitions reviewed, the date of the visit and any follow-up communications for your company’s records. Jot down the questions asked and the cadence of the visit to inform your attorney about what to expect from future visits. When an officer takes photographs, take notes. When an officer requests documents, take notes. When an officer interviews personnel, take notes. And pass all your records on to your attorneys, who then can be prepared for the entire compliance audit.