OIG Report Criticizes USCIS Targeted Site Visits for H1B Verification16 Nov 2017
On October 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report criticizing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Administrative Site Visits and Verification Program (ASVVP) and the use of targeted site visits. The report, entitled “USCIS Needs a Better Approach to Verify H1B Visa Participants,” found that the ASVVP and targeted site visits fail to sufficiently safeguard the integrity of the H1B program.
Background: H1B Program and Site Visits
The USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) directorate employs hundreds of immigration officers who perform random site visits of H1B employers. ASVVP is used by the USCIS to help verify whether H1B employers and H1B workers are complying with the applicable laws and regulations. The immigration officer who visits the worksite attempts to speak with the individual who signed the H1B petition, to ensure that all of the facts listed in the petition are consistent with what is found at the worksite. The USCIS also conducts more targeted site visits if indications of fraud are found. As discussed in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, USCIS Ramping Up Enforcement Against H1B Employers (06.Apr.2017), such site visits have been increasing in frequency lately.
Overview of OIG Report Highlighting Shortcomings
The OIG report details the many shortcomings of the ASVVP program. Some highlighted problems include failing to take proper action when immigration officers identify potential fraud or noncompliance, making a limited number of site visits, and failing to ensure the officers are thorough. These shortfalls cause the ASVVP program to have a minimal impact on preserving the integrity of the H1B program.
Recommendations in the OIG Report
The report made four recommendations to the USCIS to make the program more robust and efficient. These recommendations to the USCIS include:
- Developing a process to collect and analyze complete and accurate data for all H1B site visit activity
- Identifying information obtained through site visit programs post adjudication and implementing measures to share this information with external stakeholders as appropriate
- Conducting an internal assessment of the ASVVP and then taking steps to make the program more efficient and consistent
- Developing comprehensive policies to ensure adjudicative action is prioritized on fraudulent or noncompliant immigration benefits identified by the ASVVP and targeted site visits
The USCIS agreed with all of these recommendations and is in the process of implementing them.
The OIG found that a number of improvements are necessary within the ASVVP and the use of targeted site visits to properly protect against fraud and abuse of the H1B program. These types of internal audits are a key means of having the USCIS review and improve its internal processes and procedures.
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