USCIS has publicly claimed that as one-in-five H-1B applications were either fraudulently filed or included violations of the program itself. This has led to a significant increase in the amount of anti-fraud investigations by the agency. These investigations usually involve surprise site visits to the offices of U.S. H-1B employers.
Many of these investigations are conducted by the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS). This office was created in 2004 to make sure that immigration rules and regulations were being followed. According to the USCIS, FDNS’ primary mission is to detect, deter, and combat immigration benefit fraud and to strengthen USCIS’ efforts to make sure that our immigration system is not being abused.
The FDNS conducts random, unannounced onsite inspections as part of the expansion of its Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program, which started in 2009. The agency hires private contractors to send “investigators” out to conduct site visits to H-1B employers to verify if the foreign-born employee is working at the employer and performing the work as outlined in the H-1B petition. The FDNS investigators seek to confirm the identities of both the H-1B employer and the visa beneficiary in order to make sure that both the company and the worker are complying with the conditions of the H-1B visa.
The objective of the unannounced site visits is clear: to detect fraud and abuses of the visa program. According to USCIS, the agency has uncovered both technical violations of the law to outright fraud, with the most common violation being the employer’s deliberate or accidental failure to pay the prevailing wage to the international employee.
The investigations are referred to as compliance reviews and are designed to compare information contained in the I-129 petition with the facts on the ground. The site inspectors verify the information submitted with the petition and that the employer actually exists, take photographs, review documents, interview company personnel and interview the beneficiary. After the site visit, the FDNS officer issues a Compliance Review Report, which becomes part of the employer’s record. If fraud is indicated, further investigation may be conducted or the case may be referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.