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Archive for the ‘Immigration & I-9 Services’ Category

Federal Government Announces Changes to its Green Cards

Posted on: April 19th, 2017

By: Layli Eskandari Deal

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”) and the Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017.

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
  • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
  • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date. These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Layli Eskandari Deal of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

ARE CHANGES COMING TO THE H-1B VISA?

Posted on: April 19th, 2017

By: Kenneth S. Levine

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Buy American and Hire American.” In the “Hire American” portion of the order, the administration has directed USDOL, USDOJ, USCIS, and USDOS to review the current laws governing the H-1B program and develop and suggest changes that afford priority to the most skilled and highest paid positions. The current H-1B visa program allows for the issuance of an H-1B visa upon a showing that the sponsored position is a professional position requiring a Bachelors degree and that the offered salary meets the current USDOL prevailing wage.

As a practical matter, this Executive Order does not confer any changes whatsoever to the H-1B visa program. The same regulations that were in effect prior to the issuance of the order remain in effect today.  Dramatic alterations to the H-1B program would have to be accomplished by way of formal bills introduced, debated and approved by Congress, and then signed into law by the President. One such bill was introduced by Senators Grassley and Durbin in January 2017 which aims to reform H-1B as well as L-1 visas. This bill remains in a legislative committee and has yet to advance.

For more modest changes to the H-1B visa program, the Trump administration would need to undergo the formal rulemaking process pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The rulemaking process involves the formal introduction of the proposed rule, a comment period to allow for input by interested stakeholders, followed by the issuance of the final rule in the Federal Register. The formal rulemaking process is arduous and quite lengthy. It is not anticipated that any new rules or regulations in the H-1B program would be fully implemented for at least 2 years.

While this Executive Order does not have any immediate impact on the ability of U.S. employers to sponsor foreign nationals for H-1B visas, it is abundantly clear that the administration will employ a decidedly higher level of scrutiny in all H-1B filings. The order further addresses the issue of fraud and abuse by directing that the above federal agencies scrutinize all visa programs to develop more reliable indicators of whether fraud or abuse is being perpetrated in a visa application. Therefore, it is incumbent upon U.S. employers and their immigration legal counsel to check, double check and triple check that H-1B petitions are thoroughly prepared and strictly adhere to the USCIS and USDOL regulations.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Kenneth S. Levine of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

Increased Scrutiny Measures to Detect H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse

Posted on: April 7th, 2017

By: Agne Krutules

As thousands of the H-1B visa program application were filed on April 3, 2017, for the lottery for fiscal year 2018, the USCIS announced that it is implementing multiple measures to deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse. Echoing President Trump’s campaign promises to put the American workers first, the USCIS stated that while the H-1B visa program should help U.S. employers recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals, when there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers, it oftentimes hurts “too many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields.” The USCIS announced that its priority is to combat fraud in employment-based immigration programs. In unveiling its “more targeted approach” to deter such fraud, the USCIS stated that when making site visits across the country to H-1B petitioners and the worksites of H-1B employees, it will primarily focus on:

  • Instances where USCIS cannot validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data;
  • H-1B-dependent employers, i.e., employers that have a high ratio of H-1B workers as compared to U.S. workers; and
  • Employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location.

According to the USCIS, these “targeted site visits” will allow it to focus its resources where fraud and abuse are likely to be prevalent. These visits will be random and unannounced nationwide. In addition, USCIS has established an email address, where individuals (American and H-1B workers who suspect they or others may be the victim of H-1B fraud or abuse) could submit tips, alleged violations, and other relevant information about the employers. The obtained information will be used for investigations and referrals to law enforcement agencies for potential prosecution. This measure could potentially subject any employer across the country to random inspections, as disgruntled employees could make accusations without any concrete evidence of H-1B fraud or abuse.

For any questions, please contact Agne Krutules at [email protected].

Changes May Be Coming for H-1B Visa Program

Posted on: January 12th, 2017

By: Timothy Holdsworth

Recently, Representative Darryl Issa (R-California) re-introduced legislation that would work several significant changes to the H-1B visa program by “closing a loophole” in the current legislation. Currently, Companies must first take good faith steps to recruit and offer a position to an American worker prior to filing an H-1B application unless the H-1B worker receives wages of at least $60,000 or has attained a master’s or higher degree in their field of work. Rep. Issa seeks to increase this threshold to $100,000, with annual adjustments for inflation, and eliminate the masters degree exemption (full bill here).

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) plans to introduce legislation that also eliminates the master’s degree exemption, but increases the wage exemption to over $130,000. Rep. Lofgren’s bill would also eliminate the lottery system and prioritize allocation of H-1B visas first to employers that hire mainly American workers and then to H-1B-dependent employers based on how much they pay their employees above the prevailing wage for their area of employment. Under the current lottery system, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services performs a computer-generated process to randomly select 85,000 visas to review and rejects the remaining applications outright. Rep. Lofgren’s bill would also set aside 20% of the annual allocation of visas for small and start-up employers (those with 50 or fewer employees).

These proposed changes are not surprising given President-elect Donald Trump’s statement during his campaign that he will “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”

Although any changes are unlikely to be instituted before this year’s filing period, we will continue to keep you apprised of any modifications to the H-1B visa program and are available to guide you through each step of the current process.

New I-9 Form Takes Effect Next Year

Posted on: December 1st, 2016

U.S. Department of Homeland Security LogoBy: Agne Krutules

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The revision process commenced over a year ago, with the main goal to strengthen the security and integrity of the I-9 Form.

Effective January 22, 2017, employers must use only the new version, dated 11/14/2016. Until then, they can continue to use the version dated 03/08/2013 or the new version.

Among the changes to the I-9 Form, Section 1 asks for “other last names used” rather than “other names used,” and streamlines certification for certain foreign nationals.

Other changes include:

  • The addition of prompts to ensure information is entered correctly;
  • The ability to enter multiple preparers and translators;
  • A dedicated area for including additional information rather than having to add it in the margins;
  • A supplemental page for the preparer/translator.

The instructions have been separated from the form, in line with other USCIS forms, and include specific instructions for completing each field.

The revised Form I-9 is also easier to complete on a computer. Enhancements include drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates, on-screen instructions for each field, easy access to the full instructions, and an option to clear the form and start over. When the employer prints the completed form, a quick response (QR) code is automatically generated, which can be read by most QR readers.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) imposes hefty fines (raging from $110 to $1,100 per violation) for improperly preparing I-9 Forms.

For any questions you may have, please contact Agne Krutules at [email protected].