Immigration Executive Action: What U.S. Employers Need To Know Now

November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Visa Waiver Changes

On November 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation and announced his executive actions for improving the existing immigration system. Several of the President’s initiatives will directly affect U.S. employers. We have highlighted some of these initiatives below:

1. Initiatives for Skilled Workers

  • PERM Program Modernization: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has committed to modernizing the PERM Program (i.e. the first step in the employment-based green card process for employees) for the first time since the Program’s inception ten years ago. Specifically, the DOL plans to review the current regulations and seek input on key items such as labor force occupational shortages, recruitment requirements, premium processing possibilities, and typographical errors.
  • Adjustment of Status Timing: Individuals with an approved I-140 petition, who are waiting for their priority date to become current, will be permitted to file for Adjustment of Status (i.e. their green card application) earlier. This will allow the individuals to gain benefits of having an application pending, such as an EAD card and a travel document. This will also allow employees awaiting their green cards to switch employers more easily.
  • Employment Authorization for H-4 Spouses: H-4 spouses of H-1B skilled workers with an approved I-140 petition will be eligible to apply for employment authorization.
  • Clarifying Guidance on L-1B and Portability Provisions: Clarifying guidance will be provided to further explain the requirements of L-1B visa eligibility and clearly define “specialized knowledge.” Guidance will also be provided to clarify the definition of “same or similar classification” for employees wishing to port (i.e. switch) employers while their green card application is pending.

2. Initiatives for Investors and Entrepreneurs

  • Travel Authorization for Foreign Investors: Certain investors will be granted temporary authorization to travel to the U.S. to explore opportunities for job creation. This travel authorization can also be used to temporarily pursue research and development of new businesses in the U.S.
  • National Interest Waivers: Certain entrepreneurs, investors, and founders will be eligible to apply for a National Interest Waiver (i.e. a waiver of the job offer requirement for a green card applicant pursuing work in the U.S. that is found to be in the national interest).

3. Initiatives for Students

  • STEM OPT Expansion: Optional Practical Training (OPT) for STEM graduates (i.e. graduates with a degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) will be expanded to allow for a longer period of time in OPT. The relationship between the STEM graduate and their degree institution will be strengthened during this period.

The timeframe for each initiative differs, depending on whether full regulatory review is required for the initiative to be enacted. The earliest change expected is employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses, which could happen as early as December or January. The other changes are expected to follow in the coming months.

Questions on how the President’s executive actions apply to you? GoffWilson is here to help! Please contact our office today for more information.

Social Security No-Match Letters Resume

April 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

As of April 6, 2011, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has resumed issuing Social Security no match letters to US employers. No match letters are issued when an employee’s name and Social Security Number do not match.  The source of the mismatch could include typographical errors, name changes and incomplete information, as well as fabricated Social Security Numbers.

These letters – and the legal follow-up requirements and ramifications – have been the subject of litigation for years.  Since the court battle has not yet finished, the new letters have removed the specific guidance for how employers are legally required to respond.  Immigration Customs and Enforcement, SSA, and the Office of Special Counsel do agree that the mere receipt of a no match letter is not evidence that the employee is using fraudulent documents and is not authorized to work, but these letters have been used against employers to prove that the employer knowingly continued to employ an undocumented worker given the totality of the circumstances.

Employers must establish effective strategies to address no match letters in a lawful yet non-discriminatory manner. Gone are the days when employers can cover their eyes and look through their fingers. It is critical for employers to address any no match letters that are received immediately.  Employers should also consider completing an internal I-9 audit to ensure their I-9 forms have been completed properly.

If you receive a Social Security No-Match Letter, please contact GoffWilson immediately. In addition, GoffWilson is available to answer questions relating to these matters: info@goffwilson.com.

President of Chicago Staffing Agency Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison

February 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

The president of two Chicago staffing agencies, Can Do It Inc., and Anna II, Inc, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for knowingly hiring illegal aliens. In addition to this sentence, Clinton Roy Perkins, 66, was ordered to forfeit $465,178 in proceeds obtained as a result of his criminal activity. The arrest and February 16 sentencing was a result of a worksite enforcement investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2010.

According to an ICE press release, the illegal workers hired by Perkins were not asked to provide documents that verified immigration status or lawful right to work in the United States.

“We will hold employers accountable for their actions,” said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Chicago. “Mr. Perkins knowingly hired an illegal workforce and circumvented our nation’s immigration laws for financial gain.”

To read the full press release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, click here.

M-274 Handbook for Employers: A Must-Have Resource

October 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

M-274 Handbook for Employers - Save it to your desktop and keep it handy.

The most recent version of the M-274 Handbook for Employers was updated on 1/5/11. M-274 Handbook for Employers is a must-have resource, prepared by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and covers all things I-9. Below is an outline from the Handbook’s table of contents. M-274 Handbook for Employers covers:

  • Obtaining Form I-9 and the M-274
  • Why Employers Must Verify Employment Authorization and Identity of New Employees
  • Completing the Form I-9
  • Photocopying and Retaining Form I-9
  • Unlawful Discrimination and Penalties for Prohibited Practices
  • Instructions for Recruiters and Referrers for a Fee
  • E-Verify
  • Questions about the I-9 Form
  • Acceptable Document for Verifying Employment Authorization and Identity

Download M-274 Handbook for Employers – you will always find a link to the most recent version on the left-hand side of The Immigration bLAWg, under links. Save it to your desktop for quick reference, or print the document, but, keep it close by. The M-274 Handbook for Employers, along with advanced I-9 and E-Verify training is significant step for achieving compliance.

If you have questions regarding M-274 Handbook, please email or call GoffWilson: info@goffwilson.com, 603.228.1277.

Nationwide Increase of Immigration Enforcement Against Employers

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Clothing retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch is not immune from ICE. A $1,047,110 fine settlement was imposed in September.

Employers are being targeted nationwide for immigration audits by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). Since 2009, the strategy employed by ICE to reduce the number of illegal immigrants to the U.S. is to focus on employers. ICE has imposed a record number of civil and criminal penalties against employers who violate immigration laws. In FY 2010, ICE conducted more than 2,200 I-9 audits — up from a little more than 1,400 in FY 2009.

Employers can be fined up to $1,100 for each illegal employee, even if the employer is unknowingly hiring an undocumented worker. An alarming example of this – the clothing retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch recently incurred a $1,047,110 fine settlement for violations stemming from a November 2008 Form I-9 inspection of retails stores in Michigan. According to an ICE press release, “The audit uncovered numerous technology-related deficiencies in Abercrombie & Fitch’s electronic I-9 verification system. …no instances of the knowing hire of unauthorized aliens were discovered.”

There is no sign of concession as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to target U.S. employers in an effort to control illegal immigration. Employers must be well-informed of their responsibilities and carefully execute internal systems used to manage the employment process. The I-9 Form is a crucial component.

Unfortunately, as ICE imposes a record number of raids, training for employers is lacking. As a response, GoffWilson has created the comprehensive training seminar, “Form I-9 and E-Verify: What You Need To Know.” GoffWilson also provides I-9 Audits for employers concerned with the state of their I-9 Forms, and training for employees who manage the employment process.

If your company receives a legal notification from ICE, you have typically have three business days to respond. Contact GoffWilson immediately.

Announcing Form I-9 and E-Verify seminar for November 2010

October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Knowledge is power in the changing landscape of federal immigration enforcement.

GoffWilson, an immigration law firm with offices in New Hampshire and abroad, announces an encore presentation of the winning seminar for Employers and Human Resource Professionals, “Form I-9 & E-Verify: What You Need To Know 2010”. Back by popular demand for the third time, the training workshop will take place on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. at Delta Dental Auditorium in Concord, NH.

Participants earn three Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) continuing education credit hours for completing the training.

« Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama Delivers Immigration Speech

July 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

President Obama Delivers Immigration Speech at American University

Today President Obama gave his first speech directly addressing the topic of Immigration Reform.

Although the President did not outline specific details for moving forward with Immigration Reform, he did emphasize the need and importance of reform. In his speech, President Obama acknowledged the issue as “thorny and emotional,” while stressing his belief that the system is broken.

President Obama said that the U.S. is implementing and improving the system that gives employers the ability to verify their employees‘ immigration status, although he did not provide specific details. He added that businesses who employ illegal immigrants will be held responsible:

“Businesses must be held accountable if they break the law by deliberately hiring and exploiting undocumented workers. We’ve already begun to step up enforcement against the worst workplace offenders. And we’re implementing and improving a system to give employers a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally. But we need to do more. We cannot continue just to look the other way as a significant portion of our economy operates outside the law.”

For a through overview of President Obama’s speech, visit this article by USA Today. For a complete transcript of his speech, visit the White House website.

As news emerges on this important topic, GoffWilson will keep readers of The Immigration bLAWg updated.

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