On-Site H-1B Fraud Investigations on the Rise
About the FDNS
The mission of the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Office is to strengthen national security and the integrity of USCIS programs by detecting, combating and deterring fraud, while simultaneously administering immigration benefits in a timely and efficient manner. Recently this office significantly increased its fraud investigation visits at H-1B visa employer sites.
There are now approximately 650 dedicated FDNS officers located in USCIS field offices throughout the U.S. Their primary responsibilities include:
- Identifying and pursuing immigration benefit fraud;
- Analyzing local, regional, and national polices and procedures related to immigration benefit fraud;
- Conducting interviews and investigations regarding potential fraud; and
- Preparing reports based on analyses that articulate findings and propose future recommendations.
What happens during a site visit?
During a FDNS site visit, the FDNS officer or a contracted employee visits the employer's address (corporate headquarters or actual work site) listed on the I-129 form to confirm and verify specific information from a specific H-1B visa petition. The petition can either be an approved H-1B visa petition, or a pending H-1B visa petition. The H-1B employer can request the presence of their immigration attorney during the site visit; if he/she cannot be physically present, the attorney may be present via teleconference while the site visit is conducted.
When the FDNS officer arrives, he/she will likely ask to meet with the individual that signed the H-1B visa petition, or an employer representative, such as a human resource manager. The FDNS officer can ask questions about the job duties as well as company specific information that was provided in the H-1B visa petition. The FDNS officer may also ask to review certain documents such as tax returns, quarterly wage reports, job descriptions, pay stubs, and W-2 tax forms.
If inclined, the FDNS officer may also request information about past H-1B visa petitions that have been filed by the employer; he may also request a tour of the entire work site and although rare, he may request to take photographs of the work site. Additionally, the FDNS officer may also ask to speak with the H-1B employee and his/her direct supervisor to discuss the job duties and requirements for the H-1B position. In most reported cases, site visits do not last longer than one hour.
Following the site visit, the FDNS officer reports his or her findings back to the USCIS. The reports and findings are used to either affirm the approved H-1B visa petition, to approve the pending H-1B visa petition, to deny the pending H-1B visa petition, or to re-open the previously approved H-1B visa petition for a potential denial.
Employer readiness steps
While the idea of a surprise and unannounced site visit can be uncomfortable for many employers, there are precautions which can be taken to ensure the site visit goes smoothly. Specifically, an employer should:
- Review H-1B Visa Petition - Before the H-1B visa petition is ever filed, the employer should carefully review the entire petition making sure all of the information submitted to the USCIS is accurate;
- Request the FDNS officer's Business Card - Employers should request the name, title and contact information of the person conducting the site visit;
- Contact Immigration Counsel - Employer's immigration counsel should attend the site visit, either in person or via teleconference;
- Witnesses Present - Employer's should make sure their employees speak with the investigator only in the presence of a witness (If this is not possible, detailed notes should be taken by the employee being interviewed);
- Documentation - Employer should maintain a complete copy of the I-129 Petition and supporting documents for their records;
- If the employee works off-site, the off-site facility should be made aware of the potential site visit; and
- Keep a record of all places visited by FDNS Officer during the site visit.