U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seems to now have a program in place to physically investigate every newly granted granted H-1B, according to a recent client report, quoting an agent. Agents arrive at worksites, unannounced, and are asking to speak to the employee and the signatory the petition, separately, or one after another. The investigations are funded by the mandatory fraud fee of $500 which every new applicant for H-1B is required to pay.
All new H-1B petitioners and beneficiaries should now expect a site visit as part of the H-1B process. In particular, signatories to the petition need to be aware of all the underlying information in the petition, and alerted to the fact that they may be questioned out of the blue about the petition. I know in some cases senior officers in corporations sign petitions which are primarily reviewed by subordinate Human Resource personnel. A signatory who knows the material facts of the case and who is authorized and competent to speak to the matter on the spot is the best choice.
The agents will come with a scripted list of questions, though they may deviate from it. When site visits were originally ramped up—roughly two years ago—investigations were reportedly confined to basic fraud issues, such as whether the person actually reported to work, and whether the employer actually existed.
Not so now. After reviewing in detail an agent encounter with a client recently, I have to say investigations have more the feel of a mandatory audit, rather than a simple policing of the program.
For example, questions asked by investigators during this visit included (1) Who paid the filing and legal fees for the petition?, (2) Work history?, (3) Education and training?; (4) Business entity questions (e.g. employees, locations); (5) Work and pay schedule?; and (6) Number of petitions filed by the employer in the past X number of years? The investigators were working from a script of mandatory questions, produced presumably in Washington D.C.
As such, my conclusions are the government’s bureaucracy related to H-1Bs just keeps growing, and all H-1B clients have to have to be prepared for the eventual site visit.