On October 20, 2017, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) within the Department of Homeland Security issued the results of its audit of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) H-1B on-site visit program (specifically, its Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program, ASVVP), as well as USCIS response to same. The OIG found that USCIS (which also falls within Department of Homeland Security) failed to provide “minimal assurance that H-1B visa participants are compliant..with applicable immigration laws and regulations.” In response, USCIS indicated that it would make numerous changes including:
- Targeted Sited Visit and Verification Program: Developing a process to collect and analyze complete and accurate data for all H-1B site visit activity: Converting its Targeted Site Visit and Verification Program (TSVVP) from its pilot status to a more regular program by September 2018. TSVVP visits will be based on specific visa criteria, from random “compliance” visits to “for cause” visits, with guidance anticipated by June 2018.
- Enhanced Sharing of Data: USCIS will further coordinate with other federal agencies, including Department of Justice, Department of Labor, and Department of State. Such sharing will include allowing DOL to have access on employers that have been identified as having committed fraud or under investigation; allowing DOS to have access to on-site visit information in connection with visa applications at U.S. Consulate/Embassy posts worldwide; and allowing DOJ to have access to data in relation to complaints regarding potential discrimination against U.S. workers.
- Increase in Number of Worksite Visits: USCIS plans to conduct more on-site visits, with a goal of 20,000 ASVVP visits per year. To reach its goal, USCIS plans to hire additional officers dedicated to such visits.
- Continued Sharing of Data with USCIS H-1B Adjudicators. USCIS plans to continue sharing data from on-site visits with H-1B adjudicating officers and developing comprehensive policies relating to H-1B adjudications. Notably, USCIS points out the need for such data in connection with H-1B petitions for workers in the IT industry.
As a result, employers should anticipate an increased likelihood of on-site visits relating to H-1B petitions, as well as delays and/or requests for additional evidence issued by USCIS. As additional information becomes available, we will provide regular updates.