Unlike previous years, employers hiring specialized foreign workers now have it easy in some ways. For example, the number of petitions received by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for H-1B specialty occupation visas is well below the established cap for fiscal year 2011, allowing for new filings even as the fiscal year starts. With some good news, however, comes some bad.
We understand that the Department of State's Kentucky Consular Center, which collects information on the visa petitions and provides it to consulates granting visas, has started conducting audits. These audits take two forms - review of petitions that have been filed and telephone interviews of petitioners to verify information about the petitioner (you) and the beneficiary (your potential H-1B employees). The Department apparently is focusing on newly filed petitions, but they could audit petitions even after visas based on those petitions have been issued.
Does this simply mean that due to the decrease in petitions that the auditors have more time on their hands? No one knows, but more than ever, you’ve got to get your petitions for foreign skilled workers filed correctly. And, when the auditors come calling, be prepared to answer questions based on the petitions filed. With the risk of audits rising, employers have a greater risk of fines or being subject to additional scrutiny if violations, even inadvertent, are found. For assistance with petitions or an audit, contact Melissa Jones, chair of the firm's employment and labor group.