U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a FAQ this week regarding its much maligned “VIBE” system. VIBE stands for “Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises. VIBE is a commercially available database system that the agency has begun using to validate facts presented on various petitions before the agency for U.S. immigration benefits. Dunn and Bradstreet gathers and provides the business information which makes up the VIBE system.
USCIS uses the system to check up on the facts for immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions for business. VIBE is supposed to verify things like when a business was started, current number of employees, and financial ability.
In practice, VIBE adds yet another layer of red tape to cut through in the pursuit of immigration benefits for key employees. In my experience, VIBE is often inaccurate. The facts concerning a business change–they change locations, they have good years and bad years, and they hire and fire employees. When a VIBE search comes back with different or no information on the business, the agency immediately issues a Request For Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), seeking clarification. And creating delays. In the world of human resources, a two week to two month delay in a hiring can have damaging consequences on a business.
Further, in responding, Petitioners are placed with the burden of making their case, by perhaps proving their existence, financial ability, or number of employees. With limited guidance on how to satisfy the agency on these and similar points, Petitioners are obliged to respond in full, lest they risk denial. Producing tax returns, wage reports, and property deeds can be burdensome, particularly in cases where businesses have multiple locations.
USCIS is obviously attached its VIBE system, and all of DHS is particularly focused these days on ferreting out fraud. Getting the story right is a necessary task for the administrative agency, but the agency also needs to do its research and be judicious in further burdening businesses. Issuance of RFEs and NOIDs should be sparing. With the exorbitant filing fees paid today, the agency can reasonably be expected to seek validation through other means as well, before further burdening petitioners.
One final note. The FAQ includes all sorts of information on how to update Dunn & Bradstreet with a business’s information. USCIS expressly says that updating with Dunn & Bradstreet is not required, and of course it couldn’t be, without revising the regulations on immigration petitions. But it sounds like USCIS would like to see businesses working with Dunn & Bradstreet. For businesses that are moving a fair number of employees into the U.S., this may make sense, rather than repeatedly respond to RFEs and NOIDS.