What to do When USCIS Come to Visit – Its not “if” they come, its “when” they come to Visit.
USCIS is part of the US Homeland Security and is responsible for the visas and approval of all foreign workers in the United States. The USCIS stands for U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. Companies that employ foreign workers need to be aware and ready for surprise visits from the USCIS to check that all the registered information regarding foreign workers is in fact true and correct.
USCIS started the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program in July 2009 as an additional way to verify information in certain visa petitions. Under this program, immigration officers in the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) make unannounced site visits to collect information as part of a compliance review. see – https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/directorates-and-program-offices/fraud-detection-and-national-security/administrative-site-visit-and-verification-program
What the Officers are checking in the Compliance Visit
The USCIS will want to make sure of the following facts:
- The American employer exists
- The employer or his company actually filed the Work Permit petition and have a complete copy to hand to the officers
- The job facts detailed on the H1b or L1 petition including salary, hours and location are correct
- The foreign employee is qualified for the position stated on the application
- The employee is being paid as per the detailed petition and the work conditions are as per the petition.
- The employee has a signed Form I-9
Are the compliance visits planned?
Checks from officers of the USCIS are totally random and can happen at any time, unannounced. Employees and employers do not have to take part in the visit and interview, that should take no more than 30 minutes since it is voluntary, but it is recommended to fully participate and cooperate in order not to cause any suspicion or concern.
Be Prepared – What should I have on record to show Inspectors
It is important to be totally prepared for the visit in every aspect. No notice is given and the USCIS has a full and complex compliance program that targets different businesses and employers entirely at random to ensure that the system is not being abused. In order to be totally prepared for an unplanned visit, it is suggested to have the following systems in place:
- Designate a Coordinator or representative – the coordinator needs to be familiar with all aspects of the law regarding foreign workers and be able to get his or her hands on all documents relating to the foreign worker instantly. He or she needs to be available every day of the working week and if not available have someone who can take his or her place. The coordinator also needs to personally introduce himself to all of the foreign employees that could be targeted by the USCIS and, on a monthly basis send reminders to the employees that an USCIS visit can occur at any time and advise the employee what the visit may entail.
- Identify the Coordinator to All Staff – the receptionist, cleaner and also the top managers need to know who the coordinator for the USCIS visits is and be able to direct any officer of USCIS directly to the coordinator in order to avoid confusion and also create fear of a government official arriving on site.
- Perfect Record Keeping – all documents relating to the petition for and employment of a foreign worker including copies of passports, working visas, employment contracts and salary slips need to be kept in one separate file, that should be marked USCIS with the name of the employee. This file should be readily available, not just online but in paper form so that the coordinator is able to pull it out and give it to the visiting officer of the USCIS.
- Inform Employees – the employees working at the company through visas, with the approval of USCIS need to understand that at any time, a surprise visit may occur and although participation in the visit is voluntary, it is best to take part and answer honestly all the questions answered.
- A compliance policy and protocol should be in place for such site inspections
What should we expect from the Immigration Officers to check throughout the Inspection
Officers use and record their findings on a “Compliance Review Report”. At the site visit, the officer will:
- Verify the information, including supporting documents, submitted with the petition;
- Verify that the petitioning organization exists;
- Review public records and information on the petitioning organization;
- Conduct unannounced site visits to where the beneficiary works;
- Take photographs of the location and the premises
- Check the signs on the doors and the business lobby
- Questions may be directed to neighboring businesses or residents asking to verify the location and existence of the business.
- The type of premises will be noted;
- Review documents;
- Interview personnel to confirm the beneficiary’s work location, physical workspace, hours, salary and duties; and
- Speak with the beneficiary who will be asked to show valid identification.
The officers may occasionally conduct multiple site visits if they need more information to complete a compliance review.
After an inspection
Employers should provide all additional information that FDNS officers request in any follow-up communication.
Because FDNS immigration officers are not adjudicators, they do not make decisions on petitions or applications for immigration benefits. USCIS will review an officer’s Compliance Review Report for any indicators of fraud or noncompliance, and, FDNS may refer the case to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for criminal investigation.
If all these points are adhered to and taken seriously, any surprise visit from the USCIS will run smoothly. Follow up visits may occur but with all the correct documentation and information, there is nothing to worry about.
Please feel free to contact us at DRSI Law, to review your compliance policy and handbook.
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