J-1 hosts should review their policies and procedures in anticipation of unannounced site visits.
The U.S. Department of State, Office of Private Sector Exchange, will begin conducting random J-1 host site visits during the coming weeks. These visits are part of a larger assessment of the intern and trainee categories of the J-1 program.
What to Expect During a Site Visit
The representative from the Office of Private Sector Exchange who is conducting the site visit will ask to speak with the J-1 participant (intern or trainee) and his or her supervisor and will likely request a tour of the host company. It is very likely that the representative will also ask to see Form DS-7002, the training plan for the particular J-1 program being investigated, and will ask questions to determine how accurately the plan is being followed.
The representative will be interested in the extent to which the J-1 participant is involved in American cultural activities, as cultural exchange is designed to be the central focus of any J-1 program. The representative will be seeking to determine whether the J-1 participant is engaged in a training or internship role, as opposed to serving as a productive employee of the host company.
The visit will likely last 15 minutes to one hour, although longer visits are possible. Site visits may take place at any time during the workday, and, while representatives may contact the J-1 host by telephone or email to provide advance warning of an upcoming visit, the visits are much more likely to occur with no prior notification.
What to Do in the Event of a Site Visit
Given that site visits are likely to be unannounced, J-1 hosts should educate receptionists at all worksites about the possibility of a site visit. J-1 hosts should have protocols in place for receptionists to contact the host’s internal immigration manager immediately upon the arrival of the representative.
The immigration manager responsible for the site visit should ask to see the representative’s identification and business card. If the J-1 host has any concerns about the representative’s credentials, the J-1 host may call the telephone number on the representative’s business card to verify the authority to conduct the investigation. The J-1 host should note the officer’s name, title, and contact information.
If the representative asks to speak with the J-1 participant and the participant is present at the site, he or she should be made available. However, the meeting should only take place in the presence of the immigration manager responsible for the site visit, even if the representative asks to meet with the participant alone. If the representative insists on meeting alone with the participant, the immigration manager should contact legal counsel by telephone and have a lawyer speak directly to the representative. The purpose of the immigration manager’s presence is not to limit the responses that may be proffered by the participant or to restrict what he or she may say, but simply to ensure that inappropriate liberties are not taken by the representative and that the discussion does not exceed its proper scope.