An Indian passport sits on a desk along with a set of visa application forms at a BLS International Services Ltd. visa processing center in New Delhi. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

U.S. Agency Recommends Tighter H-1B Visa Verification Process

The federal U.S. agency that approves applications for the most sought-after H-1B visas needs to improve upon its current site visit verification programme so as to prevent fraud in the system, the Department of Homeland Security said in a report.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S. CIS), which conducts site visits to companies that hire foreign workers on H-1B visas as part of its objective to detect fraud, “could do more to prevent approving petitions for recurring violations and collaborate more with external stakeholders,” said the Office of Inspector General in its latest report released this week.

"The agency lacks performance measures to show how site visits contribute to improving the H-1B Program,” the Inspector General said.

Without addressing the challenges, U.S. CIS site visits do not fully safeguard the H-1B Program, and the agency misses opportunities to ensure funds are put to better use through more robust site visits, the inspector general report said.

According to the report, U.S. CIS can approve more than 3,30,000 H-1B petitions each year and, as of April 2017, reported more than 6.8 lakh approved and valid H-1B petitions.

“U.S. CIS conducts a limited number of visits and does not always ensure the officers are thorough and comprehensive in their approach,” the report said adding that further limiting the site visits' effectiveness, U.S. CIS does not always take proper action when immigration officers identify potential fraud or non-compliance.

It also uses targeted site visits to respond to indicators of fraud. However, the agency does not completely track the costs and analyse the results of these visits, the report said.

As such the inspector general in its report recommends that U.S. CIS Deputy Director, develop a process to collect and analyse complete and accurate data for all H-1B site visit activity.

It also asks U.S. CIS to identify data and assessments obtained through site visit programs post adjudication and implement measures to systematically share this information with external stakeholders as appropriate.

U.S. CIS has also been recommended to develop comprehensive policies across Directorates to ensure adjudicative action is prioritised on fraudulent or noncompliant immigration benefits identified by the H-1B ASVVP (Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program) and targeted site visits.

Among other things, U.S. CIS has also been asked to enhance the random sampling procedures to also include a more risk based approach that prioritises the recurring violators within the universe of H-1B holders and a random stratified selection of small.

U.S. CIS has accepted all recommendations.