The fraud unit of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is expanding its oversight of certain L-1 visas by initiating unannounced visits to petitioners beginning this month. USCIS already routinely conducts on-site inspections of H-1B employers. The compliance visits will be conducted by USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) unit. Inspectors may appear at a new office site to verify information in the L-1 application and other documentation, including the identity of the beneficiary, the legitimacy of operations, and compliance with L-1 status.

The increased enforcement measure comes after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a report by its Office of Inspector General in August, recommending ways to root out fraud in the L-1 visa program for intracompany transferees. That report, Implementation of L-1 Visa Regulations, found several problems specifically with new office petitions and their subsequent extensions. A new office petition allows a foreign entity without a U.S. affiliate to send a manager, executive or a worker with specialized knowledge to open a new office.

“New office petitions and extensions are inherently susceptible to abuse because much of the information in the initial petition is forward-looking and speculative,” the report concluded. It recommended that USCIS conduct a mandatory site visit before extending one-year new office petitions. USCIS has not stated whether it will limit its inspections to extensions of new office petitions, as recommended by the report, or whether its visits will encompass other types of L-1 petitioners, such as larger company petitioners filing individual petitions and companies with approved Blanket L petitions.

BAL Comment: While the scope of the FDNS site inspections is not clear, USCIS has said it plans to begin conducting post-adjudication domestic L-1 compliance site visits in the first quarter of 2014. BAL advises that clients be prepared for these compliance visits and, as with H-1B compliance site visits, ensure that there is an internal company procedure in place to route FDNS officers to an appropriate company contact, who is aware of the company’s L-1 filings and is in a position to confirm the contents of the petition.

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