US immigration officers are reportedly visiting the homes of H1B visas holders working remotely. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing much of the US workforce into remote working, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agents are making home visits to ensure that foreign employees are complying with H1B visa rules.
USCIS said that the home visits are important for ‘protecting the H1B visa program’s integrity.’ Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, USCIS had stepped up site visits at workplaces employing H1B and L1 visa holders.
However, many commentators have said that home visits are a measure designed to ‘ramp up the fear’ among US visa holders. One commentator said: “There’s something different about an officer from the federal government coming to your workplace than coming to your home. It should be your sanctuary. And now it’s not even safe for them.”
Aggressive Trump tactic
Home visits are a new development, and seemingly yet another tactic orchestrated by outgoing President, Donald Trump, to scare immigrants. Throughout his time in office, Trump has sought to make US entry for immigrants increasingly difficult, while taking steps to force out those he believes have no right to be in the US.
According to reports, USCIS has been emailing H1B visa holders to arrange home visits or to visit offices that are not their usual workplace. However, some people who have been visited said that US immigration officers have shown up at their door unannounced.
One commentator said: “It’s all a little bit scary, especially to those folks who are not used to the process of having an officer come to your house and knock on your door and start asking questions.”
USCIS refuses to disclose when home visits started
USCIS has declined to disclose when home visits started, the purpose behind them and how many it has conducted and where.
Spokesperson for the government agency, Matthew Bourke, said: “The agency’s power to conduct worksite inspections to verify visa holders’ eligibility and compliance with the law is critical to the integrity of the H1B program to detect and deter fraud and noncompliance.”
“On-site inspections are only conducted at locations that employers have designated as work sites,” Bourke added.
Under ‘normal’ circumstances, employers would have to report to USCIS that a H1B visa holder is working from home. However, amid the pandemic, this requirement has been relaxed.
Nevertheless, the home visits seem to be intended to confirm that employers are indeed following the rules, even if they don’t currently have to report that workers are operating remotely. Under family-based immigration rules, home visits by USCIS officers are part of routine procedures.
Virtual home visits
Another commentator said that they’d heard of USCIS conducting ‘virtual’ home visits by phone or email, but hadn’t come across cases of US immigration officers turning up at someone’s home in person. The commentator said: “I don’t hear about a ton of unannounced site visits, even in offices.”
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that the ‘virtual’ visits are carried out to ensure that H1B visa holders are performing the job duties they have been approved for, in the proper location at the appropriate rate of pay.
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