On Dec 02 2009 by William A. Stock

USCIS Outlines Anti-Fraud Efforts for Employment-based Immigration Petitions

In late September, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to USCIS asking what steps the agency was taking to ensure that employers remain in compliance with their obligations to H-1B workers and other sponsored immigrants.  Senator Grassley was particularly concerned about measures in place to ensure that companies placing workers at another employer’s location (for example, IT workers implementing a project for a company’s customer) comply with H-1B wage payment requirements for the actual location where services will be performed.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas has responded to Senator Grassley in a letter recently obtained by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  In it, Director Mayorkas has outlined three main efforts the agency has taken and will take that should be of interest to companies that file petitions for H-1B and other immigrant workers, which are described below.

Director Mayorkas pointed to two expansions of current efforts in adjudicating H-1B petitions: the heightened documentation requirements for third-party placements, and the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (ASVVP).

For H-1B petitioners that will place workers at sites of other employers, USCIS has been requiring verification of the actual job placement – a contract between the petitioner and the company operating the location where the work will take place, for example, and even confirmation letters from the petitioner’s clients of the specific project that a specific worker will be performing.  USCIS has also been limiting the approval of H-1B petitions to the length of the project documented by the petitioner, rather than approving a three-year petition based on the petitioner’s assertion that other projects will be found.

Director Mayorkas indicated that USCIS’s scrutiny of these petitions will continue, and that the I-129 form is currently being revised to provide a space for the employer to obtain the worker’s signature on a confirmation that the worker is aware of the location of the employment and the appropriate rate of pay for that location.

The other current effort  is the ASVVP, under which almost 6000 site visits have taken place during the summer of 2009.   During these site visits, USCIS employees or contractors from private investigation companies go to the location of employment specified on a company’s H-1B petition, speak with the company’s representative and the employee, and verify that the employee is working in the job specified in the H-1B petition and at the location covered by the petition’s LCA.  Director Mayorkas indicated that this program will continue and be expanded, with more than 25,000 site visits scheduled to be conducted between now and September 2010.

Finally, Director Mayorkas announced a new effort to provide adjudicators with independent information about companies who file petitions in employment-based immigration matters.  USCIS has contracted with Dun and Bradstreet to provide it access to D&B’s database of business information, through which USCIS will seek to independently verify information about employers, such as their annual revenue, number of employees, and business locations.

Due to the scrutiny USCIS will be giving employers, it certainly remains important for employers to take the process of filing immigration petitions seriously and only file well-documented applications.