Got Employees in L-1 or J-1 Status? Be Prepared for a Site Visit

Just like employers of H-1B and R-1 (religious) workers experienced earlier, employers of L-1 intra-company transferees and J-1 exchange visitors can now expect similar site visits.

 

In L-1 site visits, the Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) conducts unannounced inspections of L-1 employers in response to an August 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) which found that new office L-1 petitions and extensions tended to be susceptible to fraud and abuse.  A new office L-1 petition is filed when a multinational company has launched a new office in the U.S. and petitions to transfer an executive, manager or specialized knowledge employee to start the operation.

 

During the course of the site visit, inspectors seek to verify the validity of information submitted on the L-1 petition and compliance with the terms and conditions of the relevant immigration status, and to confirm the legitimacy of the petitioning company and its operations.  Site visits typically last between 15 minutes to an hour and are unannounced.  Site inspectors may ask to review documents, speak with company representatives, and interview the beneficiary of the petition and his or her manager.

 

To prepare for these site visits, employers should conduct an internal review of the employment of all L-1 employees to ensure that their job descriptions, worksite addresses, and compensation information are readily available.  L-1 employers should retain in their files complete copies of all I-129 petitions and supporting documentation.  They should inform L-1 employees and their managers of the possibility of the site visits and remind them of the content of the I-129 petition and supporting documentation.  Employers should be prepared to provide complete and accurate information about the L-1 employee to site inspectors either at the time of the inspection or in response to follow-up inquiries.  Front desk personnel should be alerted to the expectation of a visit and front-end best practices should be developed for managing inspections.  Some of the documentation the site inspector might request to see include copies of the L-1 employee’s identity documents, a business card, most recent paystubs and Form W-2.

 

In the J-1 site visit, a representative from the Office of Private Sector Exchange, of the U.S. Department of State, will request to speak with the J-1 participant and his/her supervisor.  In the course of the visit which could last up to one hour, the representative will likely want to see Form DS-7002 and have a tour of the host company.  Considering the goal of the J-1 site visit, host companies and J-1 participants should be prepared to answer questions eliciting how accurately the intern/trainee plan is being followed.  The representative wants to know the extent to which the J-1 participant is involved in American cultural activities and whether the J-1 participant is truly engaged in a training or internship role, as opposed to being a productive employee of the host company.

 

If the J-1 intern/trainee is present at the time of the visit, he or she should meet with the representative in the presence of the immigration coordinator responsible for the site visit.  The purpose of the immigration coordinator’s presence during the visit with the intern/trainee is to ensure that the site visit does not improperly exceed its intended scope.