February 2, 2010
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") Liaison Committee received reports from AILA attorneys that CBP inspectors at the Newark, New Jersey airport port of entry were apparently assisting in an investigation involving certain H-1B non-immigrants from India and certain H-1B petitioner companies. The inspectors' questions focused on who the individuals worked for, how their pay was computed, who paid their salary, their job duties, and what they were paid. In some cases, the individuals were subjected to expedited removal and visa cancellation.
After inquiring with CBP headquarters ("HQ") about these incidents, the CBP Liaison Committee was advised by HQ that several of these cases involved companies under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") for ongoing fraud. CBP HQ noted that they use as much advance information as possible to target specific individuals who warrant additional inspection. HQ also noted that recent enforcement cases reviewed ranged from simple documentary deficiency to visa/petition fraud. Upon an inadmissibility finding, the determination to either allow the applicant to withdraw his or her application for admission or to subject the applicant to expedited removal is based on "the totality of the circumstances and reviewed on a case by case basis." In the Newark enforcement actions, CBP Newark worked closely with USCIS - Fraud Detection and National Security ("FDNS") and the Department of Labor - Office of Investigations. CBP HQ stated that those questioned were offered the opportunity to contact their consulate and that CBP officers contacted the petitioner and/or current employer when clarification was needed. CBP HQ confirmed that they screen ALL employment-based visa holders to determine admissibility and ensure compliance with entry requirements.
In addition, on January 27, AILA members attending a CBP meeting in the Newark, New Jersey area were informed that a new policy has been instituted at Newark Airport. This policy involves conducting random checks for returning H-1B, L-1, and other employment-based visa holders. Based upon the initial check, if the person's admissibility is questionable, then he or she will be sent to secondary inspection for further interview. In some cases, if CBP discovers discrepancies in previously filed petitions, then the applicant may be asked to withdraw his/her application for admission into the United States or be subject to expedited removal.
In all cases, H-1B beneficiaries should thoroughly prepare for their trip to the U.S. and their inspection upon application for admission by reviewing all pertinent documents to their petition and to consider carrying evidence to support the assertions made in the petition filed on their behalf by their employer. Similarly, employers must be prepared for telephone inquiries from CBP officers at ports of entry to confirm the assertions made in any nonimmigrant petition and supporting documentation. Finally, employers must be advised that the government may review information in any public venues such as websites and other media for consistency with petition content. Thus, keeping such public information accurate and current is essential.