Employers with foreign national employees working in L-1 visa status should prepare for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) site visits. The purpose of these site visits is to pursue and deter immigration fraud, and also ensure that immigration benefits are not granted to foreign nationals who might threaten U.S. national security. Last October we blogged about USCIS’ plans to expand site visits by its Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) unit to include L-1 “new office” employer locations in the first quarter of FY 2014. While the FDNS routinely conducts site visits to H-1B employer locations (17,307 in FY 2011), site visits will now increase in regularity for all L-1 employers, not just “new offices.”

Most site visits should be brief, between 30-60 minutes. While short, they are important, as failure to provide sufficient information could result in a Notice of Intent to Revoke a previously approved petition. Below are some tips employers should know to prepare for L-1 site visits.

  1. No Warning – Do not expect a courtesy call in advance of a site visit. Either an FDNS site inspector or contractor inspector (nongovernment employee) will show up at the work location stated on the petition. Employers occasionally receive e-mail notification. Instruct front office staff to obtain the name, title, and business card of any inspector before allowing him/her into the office.
  2. Delegate an Immigration Representative – The inspector will ask for the person at the company who signed the petition; however, the employer should appoint one HR professional to serve as an immigration representative to interact with the inspector when s/he arrives. This person should be involved in the day-to-day administration of the company’s immigration processes and have working knowledge of the various foreign nationals employed in L-1 and H-1B status. This person may, but does not need to be, the company signatory on the petition. Inform front office staff who will greet the inspector to contact the company’s immigration representative.
  3. Conduct the Meeting in a Conference Room – The immigration representative and inspector should meet in a conference room. The meeting should not take place in any open area or in an individual office. The immigration representative should request a witness be present for the duration of the meeting; having an immigration attorney available on the phone is also acceptable.
  4. Make a List of L-1 and H-1B Employees – While the focus of a site visit will be on one employee, the inspector may ask for the total number of employees in both L-1 and H-1B status. Having a list of L-1 and H-1B employees readily available will simplify this answer. This list is only for internal purposes and should not be turned over to the officer.
  5. Questions to Expect – The inspector’s job is to identify and eliminate fraud in the L-1 and H-1B programs. The questions should be straightforward and limited to confirming the information presented in the petition. If the immigration representative has any reservations about answering a question, s/he may write down the question and ask to respond later. Here are some questions the immigration representative should be prepared to answer:
    1. Describe the company’s products or services.
    2. Describe the ownership structure of the organization.
    3. How long has the company been in business?
    4. How many total employees work for the company?
    5. Where are the company’s other office locations?
    6. Does the L-1 employee in question work for the company?
    7. Does the L-1 employee in question work at an “off site” location, and if so, where?
  6. Documents to Provide – In addition to answering questions about the company and the employee to confirm the facts of the L-1 petition, the immigration representative should also be able to provide copies of the following documents regarding the L-1 employee:
    1. Photo Identification
    2. Recent Paystub
    3. W-2
    4. Business Card
    5. Job Description
  7. Give a Tour – The inspector will want to take a tour of the facilities to ensure that they exist as described in the petition. The immigration representative should accompany the inspector at all times and should contact the company’s General Counsel before allowing the inspector into any secure areas on the job site. The inspector may ask to take photos of the worksite.
  8. Meet the L-1 Employee – The inspector will also want to meet with the L-1 employee to further confirm the employee is working at the location and in the managerial or specialized knowledge position described in the petition. This meeting should take place in the conference room rather than the employee’s office. The inspector may ask the employee to confirm his or her job duties, current rate of pay, and whether the employee paid any fees related to his or her immigration process. If the inspector asks to speak to the employee alone, the immigration representative should ask to remain with the inspector and employee.

As always, if you have any questions, contact the experts at Trow & Rahal.
Posted by: Andry Finkle, Associate Attorney