How Employers Can Deal with USCIS’s Expanded L-1 Site Visit Program

by Ronald Shapiro

The L work visa category allows multinational companies to transfer overseas employees to the United States. These employees may be transferred to the United States on an L work visa if the employee has been employed outside of the United States by the U.S. employer’s subsidiary, parent company or corporate affiliate. Employees who are transferred to the U.S. on an L work visa must be continuously employed abroad for one (1) continuous year within the three (3) year period of time preceding the L visa application being submitted to USCIS. The transferred employee must be employed abroad as either an executive, manager, or as an employee who possesses specialized knowledge. The transferred employee must be sponsored to fill an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge position within the United States.

In connection with the L-1 petitions process, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it plans to conduct worksite inspection visits of L-1 employers as part of its Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Division’s Site Inspection Program.

Currently, USCIS makes worksite inspection visits H-1B employer worksites in accordance with its Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program, which was created in July 2009 in an effort to detect H-1B fraud. Pursuant to the program, random H-1B site visits occur at the worksites of employers of all sizes and across all industries.

Earlier this year, USCIS announced that it would be expanding its worksite inspection program to include L-1 employers. The expansion came in response to a report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) that highlighted concerns about fraud and abuse within the L-1 intra-company transferee program. OIG issued the report in response to concerns over fraud and abuse in the L-1 visa program and suggested ways to make the program more resistant to fraud, including site visits as a mandatory requirements for the renewal of L-1 new office petitions.

What to Expect from a Site Visit

Although each site visit is unique, the following highlights some of the things that employers can expect with respect to an L-1 site visit:

  • The site visit will be conducted by a USCIS officer or a private investigation firm.
  • Visits typically last about an hour, though visits can be shorter or longer.
  • Most site visits occur with no prior notification and they may take place any time during the workday. If you are notified of a site visit in advance, you should promptly contact legal counsel.
  • Employers should make sure that all receptionists are aware of procedures regarding USCIS site visits.
  • The company’s immigration managers should make sure to obtain the inspector’s identification and business card.
  • The inspector may ask to speak to the foreign national employee in order to ask questions about his or her employment, including job title, salary, work location, and hours. During this meeting the immigration manager or legal counsel should be present.
  • The inspector will likely ask to tour the facilities and may wish to see the work area of the foreign national employee.
  • The employer may be asked to provide a copy of the foreign national’s driver’s license, business card, paystubs, and Form W-2.
  • If the inspector is satisfied that there is no evidence of immigration fraud involved with the L-1 petition, no further action is likely to be taken and the employer will likely hear nothing more. If, on the other hand, there is suspicion of fraud or an issues arise, the L-1 petition may be denied or the USCIS may request additional information.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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