Since the creation of the L visa category in 1970, the L-1 statutory provisions have been modified several times. In recent years, L-1 cases have been subject to heightened scrutiny both by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. consulates abroad.
In response to Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) concerns over fraud and abuse within the L-1 visa program, a report was recently released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). In the September 3, 2013 issue of the Immigration eAuthority, we briefly summarized the OIG’s key findings and recommendations to improve the integrity of the L-1 visa program. You can view this synopsis here.
Among its recommendations, the OIG advocates for a narrower legal interpretation of “specialized knowledge” in the L-1B visa category, calling on USCIS to publish new guidance that clarifies the agency’s interpretation of the concept. The OIG also urges USCIS to make site visits a general requirement before renewing L-1 new office petitions. Employers should note that, in responding to the OIG’s recommendations in this regard, USCIS stated that the agency’s Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) unit expects to begin conducting post-adjudication, domestic L-1 compliance visits in the first quarter of FY 2014. Whether USCIS intends to extend these site visits to all L-1 petitions, not merely new office petitions, remains to be seen.
Ogletree Deakins is monitoring developments with respect to the L-1 visa program and will provide updates as more information regarding legislative and agency initiatives becomes available.