Kentucky Consular Center Begins Audit of Nonimmigrant Visa Petitions – Important Information for Employers
The Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) has begun to verify factual information included in nonimmigrant visa petitions received from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through telephonic contact with petitioners.
In 2007, the DOS informed consular posts that they must verify the details of approved nonimmigrant visa petitions through the Petition Information Management Service (PIMS). A PIMS report includes information from the petitioner’s I-129, as well as information from the DOS’s Fraud Prevention Unit, who researches factual data of petitioners, beneficiaries and their proposed U.S. employment. The Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) in a PIMS report links an approved petition to a base petitioner record, allowing for efficient tracking of nonimmigrant visa petitioner and petition information. The KCC’s electronic PIMS record is the “primary source of evidence used by consular officers to determine nonimmigrant visa petition approval.”
Petitioner and Beneficiary Reviews:
The DOS has decided to create a base petitioner record to be included in PIMS report for all first time petitioners due to lack of information on the petitioner in the USCIS Computer Linked Information Management System. To do this, “the KCC verifies petitioner information contained in the petition including, but not limited to, review of the company website, company contact information, and use of Google earth to confirm that an office exists in an appropriate physical location.” Once complete, the base petitioner record is ordinarily not re-verified for at least two years.
By order of DOS, the KCC has also commenced verification of information relating to beneficiaries and proposed U.S. employment. Verification of information includes random, unannounced telephonic contact with petitioners. The findings are made available to consular officers usually within two days of completing review. Then, consular officers review the reports and correct any discrepancies made in error. If not completed in error, the consular officers will give all such incriminating evidence found during the nonimmigrant visa interview to be included in the KCC’s report.
DOS’s Fraud Prevention Unit has authorized 15 contractors to conduct the telephonic beneficiary reviews with petitioners. These contractors are authorized to speak with an authorized official and their questions may include: whether the petitioner submitted the petition; when the petitioner was incorporated; where the physical location of the petitioner was; number of employees; names of shareholders; location of attorney of record; and general information regarding the petitioner’s operations and business plan.
Important Information on Telephonic Verification Calls:
1. Most KCC telephonic contact will occur shortly after the Petition approval, and prior to visa issuance, but the KCC may also contact the Petitioner after visa issuance.
2. Clients should keep the name of the KCC contractor and confirm the contractor’s credentials with the KCC before divulging any information. Also, there are many government agencies that may audit the petition, so it is important to know the agency for follow-up purposes.
Attorneys should confirm that the person contacting the petitioner is one of the 15 contractors authorized by the KCC by calling (606) 526-7500.
3. Client should inform counsel of the telephonic contact with a KCC contractor, and try to have an attorney present.
4. If an attorney is not present, clients should try to have a witness present when speaking with government agents or contractors. Following the interview, counsel should debrief the interviewee and witness(es). If this is also not a possibility, the witness and interviewee should write, save and label notes of the interview as “privileged”, and then give these to counsel for review and retention.
5. Designated company officials should keep complete copies of their I-129 petitions and supporting documents in a confidential file, and review it before speaking to KCC contractor.
6. Employers should not guess information if they are not unsure about some requested information, and they should tell this to the KCC contractor. They should indicate that they will follow up with the contractor once the information has been obtained. This is very important for company representatives without access to the information being requested, and when no other representatives are available to take the contractor’s unannounced call.
7. Any information learned during the telephonic contact and subsequent nonimmigrant visa interview could be used in regards to a previously approved petition, or could be referred to USCIS and ICE for further investigation, and could lead to civil penalties or criminal prosecution.