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    Subject Term: "Immigration fraud"

    4 publications with a total of 11 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: Seto Bagdoyan
    Phone: (202) 512-6722

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen USCIS's EB-5 Program fraud risk management, the Director of USCIS should develop a fraud risk profile that aligns with leading practices identified in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)stated that the program would implement GAO's recommendation to develop a fraud risk profile and anticipated completion by September 30, 2017. In April 2017, USCIS provided an update including supporting documentation which reported that USCIS had contracted with an outside consultant to, among other things, develop a fraud risk profile that aligns with leading practices identified in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. According to its response, USCIS expected to complete development of the profile by September 30, 2017.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    6 open recommendations
    including 3 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that EOIR's fraud prevention controls are adequate, the Attorney General should direct EOIR to conduct regular fraud risk assessments across asylum claims in the immigration courts.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) reported that it is taking several steps toward implementing this recommendation. First, EOIR undertook a review of all asylum fraud complaints that the office received since 2007. Second, EOIR reported that, beginning in June 2016, it conducted a series of trainings and in-person "listening sessions" to discuss issues related to asylum fraud with immigration judges and court staff. Third, EOIR reported that it is in the process of creating a written assessment for all personnel at immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals to determine the magnitude of asylum fraud issues at each respective location. Fourth, EOIR reported that it is designing a statistical analysis of asylum fraud. On the basis of these actions, EOIR reported that it will subsequently to move to the next phases of the fraud risk assessment, consistent with GAO's Fraud Risk Management Framework. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should conduct regular fraud risk assessments across asylum claims in immigration courts.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that USCIS's fraud prevention controls are adequate and effectively implemented, and ensure that asylum officers and FDNS immigration officers have the capacity to detect and prevent fraud, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct USCIS to conduct regular fraud risk assessments across the affirmative asylum application process.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In October 2016, DHS indicated that USCIS had established a working group and collected fraud trend information from all eight asylum offices that will be used to inform the development of a risk assessment framework. As of January 2017, USCIS reported that the Asylum Division is continuing to develop the risk assessment framework and is working on an initial draft. According to USCIS, the Asylum Division, in cooperation with other relevant internal stakeholders such as USCIS's Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, plans to develop an assessment tool and implementation plan for completing regular fraud risk assessments of the affirmative asylum process, with the first assessment to be completed no later than the end of fiscal year 2017. Regularly assessing fraud risks across the affirmative asylum process would provide USCIS more complete information on risks that may affect the integrity of the process and therefore help USCIS target its fraud prevention efforts to those areas that are of highest risk.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that USCIS's fraud prevention controls are adequate and effectively implemented, and ensure that asylum officers and FDNS immigration officers have the capacity to detect and prevent fraud, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct USCIS to develop and implement a mechanism to collect reliable data, such as the number of referrals to FDNS from asylum officers, about FDNS's efforts to combat asylum fraud.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2016, USCIS reported that FDNS is making improvements in its database for maintaining data and information on all FDNS activities, including activities associated with asylum fraud investigations. USCIS reported that FDNS planned to update database system guides and associated training materials, and conduct training for all users by September 2016. As of October 20, 2016, USCIS had not provided GAO with additional updates to the status of this recommendation. Developing and implementing a mechanism to collect reliable data, such as the number of referrals to FDNS from asylum officers, should help FDNS's efforts to combat asylum fraud.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that USCIS's fraud prevention controls are adequate and effectively implemented, and ensure that asylum officers and FDNS immigration officers have the capacity to detect and prevent fraud, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct USCIS to identify and implement tools that asylum officers and FDNS immigration officers can use to detect potential fraud patterns across affirmative asylum applications.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In February 2016, DHS indicated that USCIS had allotted fiscal year 2016 funds in support of initial acquisition activities for tools to detect potential fraud patterns across affirmative asylum applications. USCIS reported that FDNS and DHS's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency are conducting an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to evaluate and compare operational effectiveness, suitability, costs, and risks associated with alternative solutions. In October 2016, DHS officials indicated that FDNS and DHS's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency have completed an AoA and presented the results to FDNS leadership. According to USCIS, FDNS identified a hardware solution and began acquisition planning for this hardware in September 2016. As of October 2016, RAIO FDNS is working with USCIS's Office of Information Technology and other DHS components, including the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, to study options. Based upon this additional work, and dependent on securing necessary funding, USCIS reported that it expects to complete the analysis of additional tools by September 30, 2017. Identifying and implementing new tools to detect fraud patterns would help USCIS ensure that asylum officers and FDNS immigration officers have the capacity to detect and prevent asylum fraud.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that USCIS's fraud prevention controls are adequate and effectively implemented, and ensure that asylum officers and FDNS immigration officers have the capacity to detect and prevent fraud, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct USCIS to require FDNS immigration officers to prescreen all asylum applications for indicators of fraud to the extent that it is cost-effective and feasible.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: We reported that some asylum offices have strengthened their capability to detect and prevent fraud by using immigration officers from USCIS's Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) to prescreen affirmative asylum applications; however, the use of this practice varied across asylum offices. In October 2016, DHS stated that FDNS had completed an initial review of all locally-developed prescreening policies and was working to analyze them comprehensively. Since completing this analysis, USCIS has been drafting a memorandum and companion guidance to be provided to the asylum offices, which USCIS officials stated will establish the framework for a national prescreening program. As of March 2017, USCIS reported that it expects to complete the guidance by September 30, 2017. Greater use of prescreening could allow FDNS to identify fraud trends and detect patterns that may not be evident in a small sample of asylum applications.
    Recommendation: To provide reasonable assurance that USCIS's fraud prevention controls are adequate and effectively implemented, and ensure that asylum officers and FDNS immigration officers have the capacity to detect and prevent fraud, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct USCIS to include a review of potential fraud indicators in future random quality assurance reviews of asylum applications.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2015, GAO reported that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had implemented some quality assurance procedures for asylum decisions that are designed to ensure asylum officers' decisions are legally sufficient. However, GAO found that USCIS's random quality assurance reviews of asylum cases did not include an examination of potential indicators of fraud in the case file. Thus, GAO recommended that USCIS include a review of potential fraud indicators in future random quality assurance reviews of asylum applications. As of January 2016, USCIS's Asylum Division had revised its quality assurance checklist to include a fraud-specific section that will help the reviewers evaluate whether any fraud indicators were properly identified, analyzed, and processed by asylum officers. According to Asylum Division officials, the revised checklist will be used for all general random quality assurance reviews of asylum cases, and officials stated that the next such random review is scheduled for fiscal year 2017. To fully address this recommendation, upon completion of the fiscal year 2017 review, USCIS plans to provide GAO with documentation that the revised checklist was used.
    Director: Gambler, Rebecca S
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen USCIS's EB-5 Program fraud prevention, detection, and mitigation capabilities, and to more accurately and comprehensively assess and report program outcomes and the overall economic benefits of the program, the Director of USCIS should plan and conduct regular future fraud risk assessments of the EB-5 Program.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for administering the Employment-Based Fifth Preference Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5 Program). In 2015, we reviewed the EB-5 program to determine if USCIS assesses fraud and other related risks facing the program. We found that USCIS had collaborated with its interagency partners to assess fraud and national security risks in the program in fiscal years 2012 and 2015 but that these assessments were onetime efforts that did not have documented plans to conduct regular future risk assessments, in accordance with fraud prevention practices, which could help inform efforts to identify and address evolving program risks. To strengthen the program's fraud prevention, detection, and mitigation capabilities, we recommended that USCIS plan and conduct regular future fraud risk assessments. USCIS concurred with the recommendation, stating that it will continue to conduct at least one fraud, national security, or intelligence assessment on an aspect of the program annually. In September 2015, USCIS stated that the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate unit of its Immigrant Investor Program (IPO) will conduct its next fraud, national security, and intelligence assessment in FY 2016 and one assessment annually thereafter. In an August 2016 update, USCIS stated that it had conducted a national security assessment, the draft of which was under review by management, to be finalized by September 30, 2016. We will continue to monitor USCIS's efforts to ensure that the agency finalizes this assessment and documents plans to conduct future fraud assessments on a regular basis.
    Recommendation: To strengthen USCIS's EB-5 Program fraud prevention, detection, and mitigation capabilities, and to more accurately and comprehensively assess and report program outcomes and the overall economic benefits of the program, the Director of USCIS should develop a strategy to expand information collection, including considering the increased use of interviews at the I-829 phase as well as requiring the additional reporting of information in applicant and petitioner forms.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2015, we evaluated the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Employment-Based Fifth Preference Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5 Program) to determine the extent to which the agency had addressed any identified fraud risks in the program. We found that USCIS had identified unique fraud risks in the program and had taken certain steps to address and enhance its fraud risk management efforts, including establishing a dedicated entity to oversee these efforts. However, we found that USCIS's information systems and processes limited its ability to collect and use data on EB-5 Program participants to comprehensively address fraud risks in the program. To strengthen the program's fraud mitigation capabilities, we recommended that USCIS develop a strategy to expand information collection, including considering the increased use of interviews at the application for permanent residency (form I-829) phase as well as requiring the additional reporting of information in applicant and petitioner forms. USCIS concurred with the recommendation, stating that IPO will develop a strategy to enhance and expand information collection, including publishing revised EB-5 application and petition forms, and considering the use of interviews. In a September 2015 update to this recommendation, USCIS stated that it had begun internal discussions for developing a comprehensive strategy to incorporate interviews into various stages of the EB-5 process, including the I-829 phase. In addition, USCIS was implementing a comprehensive approach for revising all EB-5 specific forms (I-526, I-924, and I-924A) to improve program integrity and data collection. USCIS expects the revised forms to be available after December 31, 2015. In an August 2016 update, USCIS stated that it has revised Forms I-924, I-924A, and I-526, and anticipated revising Forms I-924 and I-924A by November 2016 and Form I-829 by March 2017. USCIS also stated that IPO had initiated a new process to allow interview of Form I-829 petitioners by video conference, and planned to develop a comprehensive interview strategy based on the results of initial and future interviews as well as other relevant information. We will continue to monitor USCIS's efforts to develop and implement this more comprehensive EB-5 data collection strategy.
    Recommendation: To strengthen USCIS's EB-5 Program fraud prevention, detection, and mitigation capabilities, and to more accurately and comprehensively assess and report program outcomes and the overall economic benefits of the program, the Director of USCIS should track and report data that immigrant investors report, and the agency verifies on its program forms for total investments and jobs created through the EB-5 Program.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2015, we evaluated the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)'s capacity to verify job creation and to use a valid and reliable methodology to report the economic benefits of its Employment-Based Fifth Preference Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5 Program). We found that over time USCIS had increased its capacity to verify job creation by increasing the size and expertise of its workforce and by providing clarifying guidance and training, among other actions. However, we found that USCIS's methodology for reporting program outcomes and overall economic benefits of the EB-5 Program was not valid and reliable because it may understate or overstate program benefits in certain instances as it was based on the minimum program requirements of 10 jobs and a $500,000 investment per investor, instead of the number of jobs and investment amounts collected by USCIS on individual EB-5 Program forms. To more accurately and comprehensively assess and report the overall economic benefits of the program, we recommended that USCIS track and report data that immigrant investors report, and the agency verifies on its program forms for total investments and jobs created. USCIS concurred with this recommendation, stating that IPO will develop a plan to collect and aggregate additional data regarding EB-5 investment amounts and job creation, including revising USCIS data systems and processes, as appropriate. In a September 2015 update, USCIS further stated that IPO officials had already met with officials from the USCIS Office of information Technology (OIT) on August 25, 2015, to discuss EB-5 data requirements, and that IPO is reviewing the fields in the Intranet Computer Linked Application Information Management System (iCLAIMS) database used for maintaining EB-5 and other immigration program data, to define data entry requirements. Once that is completed, USCIS stated that IPO will work with OIT to discuss any system changes needed to reliably aggregate data regarding EB-5 program investment amounts and job creation. In an August 2016 update, USCIS stated that through regular meetings with OIT, IPO has identified the assets needed to develop a case management system to meet the complex data needs of the EB-5 program. This system, which will be compatible with USCIS's electronic immigration system, is tentatively projected to be completed in FY 2017. We will continue to monitor USCIS's efforts to develop a system that will enable it to accurately and comprehensively assess and report the overall economic benefits of the program.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure DSOs' and students' compliance with OPT requirements, and strengthen efforts to identify and assess potential risks in OPT, the Director of ICE should direct SEVP to develop and distribute guidance to DSOs on how to determine whether a job is related to a student's area of study and require DSOs to provide information in SEVIS to show that they took steps, based on this guidance, to help ensure that the student's work is related to the area of study.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2015, SEVP has made progress in developing employment guidance to support DSOs in determining whether a job is related to a student's area of study and requiring DSOs to provide such information in SEVIS. SEVP stated that it has drafted such guidance and it is being reviewed by SEVP subject matter experts. In addition, SEVP stated that it is developing information requirements for DSOs to attest that they adhered to the new employment guidance document in SEVIS, which requires system enhancements. In May 2016, the new STEM OPT regulation went into effect and, among other things, SEVP officials stated that it requires much greater detail on the scope of the employment and how it is related to the earned degree. As of October 2016, SEVP expects that non-STEM guidance on field of study would be finalized by the second quarter of fiscal year 2017. In May 2017, SEVP officials stated they had been revising the guidance and that it was undergoing final revisions, as planned. However, according to SEVP officials, due to the Executive Order on regulatory reform, ICE guidance updates were placed on hold with no clear date as to when SEVP would be able to publish the guidance. To fully address this recommendation, ICE should develop and distribute non-STEM-related guidance on determining whether a job is related to a student's area of study and require DSOs to provide relevant information in SEVIS.