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Posts Tagged ‘DHS’

Florida Governor Signs Employment Eligibility Verification Bill into Law

Posted on: July 2nd, 2020

By: Melissa Santalone

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill on verification of employees’ legal authorization to work in the U.S. that is a far cry from the original bill proposed at the beginning of the legislative discussion. As we discussed here, the initial bill would have required all Florida employers to register with and use the E-Verify system, a web-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that compares information supplied by the user with data held by DHS and the Social Security Administration, to verify the employment eligibility of each new employee. It would also have imposed suspension of business licensure upon the first violation and allowed a private right of action by employees that are U.S. citizens or resident aliens that were discharged by the employer while the employer knowingly employs an “unauthorized alien” at the same job site or in the same job classification elsewhere in Florida. However, this initial version was stripped of these and other provisions through the legislative process, making compliance for Florida private employers much easier.

In the end, the bill signed by Gov. DeSantis will require, beginning January 1, 2021, all Florida public employers, contractors and subcontractors to use the E-Verify system to verify the employment eligibility of all their employees. These public employers, contractors, and subcontractors are prohibited from entering into contracts with another entity unless each party uses the E-Verify system. Subcontractors are required to provide contractors with whom they enter into contracts with an affidavit providing that the subcontractors do not employ, contract with, or subcontract with “unauthorized aliens.” 

In contrast, beginning January 1, 2021, private employers are only required to verify new employees’ and, upon renewal or extension of their contracts, contract employees’ eligibility either by requiring the employees to fill out standard I-9 forms and providing the documentation required by the form, which is already required by federal law, or by using E-Verify. The law provides that private employers may not be held civilly or criminally liable for hiring or continuing to employ an “unauthorized alien” for whom the information collected for verification of employment eligibility indicates the person’s work authorization status is not that of an “unauthorized alien.” Compliance with the statute gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that private employers did not knowingly employ an “unauthorized alien.”  In terms of enforcement, private employers must retain verification documentation for three years and must produce such documentation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General, a state attorney, or a statewide prosecutor upon request. If a private employer is found to have violated this statute, it must produce an affidavit attesting that it will comply with the statute going forward, has terminated all “unauthorized aliens” in its employ, and will not knowingly employ “unauthorized aliens.” If the private employer fails to provide such an affidavit within 30 days, it will be subject to suspension of its business licensure until it provides the affidavit. If a private employer is found to have violated the law three times within three years, its business licenses may be permanently revoked. 

If you have questions about Florida law surrounding the use of E-Verify or other labor and employment-related questions, please contact Melissa A. Santalone at [email protected]

Florida Legislature is One Among Several Pushing for Mandatory Use of “E-Verify”

Posted on: November 8th, 2019

By: Melissa Santalone

A Florida State Senator has filed a bill that would require, beginning January 1, 2021, all Florida businesses to use the “E-Verify” system to check whether each newly hired employee is authorized to work in the U.S.  The “E-Verify” system is a web-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that compares information supplied by the user, presumably first obtained from the new employee, with data held by DHS and the Social Security Administration.  The bill does not limit its application to businesses of a certain size and, therefore, even the smallest of Florida businesses would be required to comply.  Any businesses failing to register with “E-Verify” after the effective date of the bill, if signed into law, would be subject to suspension of all or any state licenses they hold.  If an employer is found to have committed a second violation of knowingly employing an “unauthorized alien” within a 2-year period, the bill would subject the employer to a 30-day suspension of its business licenses.  Governor Ron DeSantis has previously come out in favor of mandatory use of “E-Verify” and would likely sign the bill into law if it were to pass both houses of the Legislature.

By introducing this bill, the Florida legislature joins the legislatures of other states, including Pennsylvania, and the United States Congress in considering similar mandatory use of “E-Verify” in 2019.  Earlier this year, legislators in North Carolina proposed a bill that would increase the number of businesses subject to its mandatory use of “E-Verify” by including businesses with 5 or more employees, down from 25 or more.  Currently 9 states require all or most employers to use “E-Verify” and numerous others require some employers to use it.

Interestingly, the Florida bill would also create a private cause of action against an employer by an employee who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien that is discharged by the employer while the employer knowingly employs an “unauthorized alien” at the same job site or in the same job classification elsewhere in Florida.  In such an action, the employee could be entitled to reinstatement or the recovery of back pay, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

We will be watching to see if this bill becomes law.  If you have questions about Florida law surrounding the use of “E-Verify” or other labor and employment-related questions, please contact Melissa A. Santalone at [email protected].  If you need assistance in other states where Freeman Mathis & Gary can assist you, please contact a member of our Labor & Employment practice group.

DHS to Double Number of H-2B Visas for the 2019 Summer Season

Posted on: April 8th, 2019

By: Kenneth Levine

Despite the current Administration’s two-year campaign to issue executive orders placing limits on U.S. work visas, a surprising limited expansion of the H-2B work visa program was announced by DHS this week. This development is especially welcome news for the landscaping, seafood processing, forestry and hospitality industries, all of whom depend heavily on this visa for temporary, seasonal workers.

The H-2B visa program has an annual quota of 66,000 workers. The 66,000 annual quota is split evenly between the spring/summer and fall/winter seasons. The above DHS announcement represents an additional 30,000 H-2B visas, on top of the 33,000 H-2B visas already designated for the 2019 spring/summer season. However, the extra 30,000 allocation of H-2B visas is being limited to those workers who have previously held H-2B visa status.

While virtually every U.S. work visa program is the subject of intense and polarizing debate in Congress, this H-2B visa expansion proposal is an encouraging sign. Indeed, this proposal should be seen as recognition by the current administration that U.S. businesses continue to experience significant difficulties in recruiting U.S. workers for temporary, seasonal positions.

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].

No E-Verify During The U.S. Government Shutdown – What Is An Employer To Do?

Posted on: January 4th, 2019

By: Kenneth Levine

The current government shutdown has ensnared the E-Verify system, which is used by numerous U.S. employers to verify the employment eligibility of new hires. While many operations of DHS and USCIS are maintained through user fees, and therefore unaffected by the shutdown, this does not apply to the E-Verify system. Functions on the E-Verify website which provide valuable information to U.S. employers, such as webinars, myE-Verify accounts, Form I-9 and E-Verify telephone support, are currently unavailable. Only basic E-Verify guidance remains accessible.

Employers that utilize E-Verify should know that the current unavailability of the system does not mean that employee hiring decisions must be delayed. DHS has posted a link to the E-Verify website which provides guidance on how U.S. employer’s should proceed with hiring during the pendency of the government shutdown. In particular, the notice addresses the “three day rule” as follows:

  • The “three-day rule” for creating E-Verify cases is suspended for cases affected by the unavailability of E-Verify.
  • The time period during which employees may resolve “tentative nonconfirmations” (TNCs) will be extended. The number of days E-Verify is not available will not count toward the days the employee has to begin the process of resolving their TNCs.
  • USCIS and DHS will provide additional guidance regarding “three-day rule” and time period to resolve TNCs deadlines once operations resume.
  • Employers may not take adverse action against an employee because the E-Verify case is in an interim case status, including while the employee’s case is in an extended interim case status due to the unavailability of E-Verify.
  • Federal contractors with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause should contact their contracting officer to inquire about extending federal contractor deadlines.

Despite the lack of accessibility to the E-Verify system, USCIS and DHS have made it crystal clear that employers engaged in hiring during the government shutdown must continue to comply with the I-9 employment verification process. Per the E-Verify website notice:

“The lapse in government appropriations does not affect Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification requirements. Employers must still complete Form I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee starts work for pay, and comply with all other Form I-9 requirements outlined in the Handbook for Employers (M-274) and on I-9 Central.”

FMG Immigration Attorneys will continue to monitor E-Verify developments and provide updates as needed.

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

Foreign Students and Exchange Visitors Beware!

Posted on: May 15th, 2018

By: Layli Eskandari Deal

On May 10, 2018, USCIS published a Policy Memorandum to provide guidance on how the agency will be calculating unlawful presence for F-1, J-1, and M-1 nonimmigrant visa holders and their dependents.

Generally, foreign students and exchange visitors are admitted to the United States for “Duration of Status”.  This means that the student or the exchange visitor is admitted to the United States for as long as the individual is still doing the activity for which the visa was issued.  For nonimmigrant (F-1 and M-1) this is generally for the duration of time that they are full time students plus the time they are in their period of authorized practical training.  The length of time generally depends on their course of study.  For Exchange Visitors (J-1) this is the period of time for their program to be completed.  Previously, unless USCIS or an Immigration Judge affirmatively terminated the status, F-1, M-1 and J-1 visa holders and their dependents would not accrue unlawful presence in the United States.

USCIS is now providing the following guidance, which is a significant change in how USCIS has treated “Duration of Status” in the past:

Individuals in F, J, and M status who failed to maintain their status before August 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on that date based on that failure, unless they had already started accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:

  • The day after DHS denied the request for the immigration benefit, if DHS made a formal finding that the individual violated his or her nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit;
  • The day after their I-94 expired; or
  • The day after an immigration judge, or in certain cases, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), ordered them excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

Individuals in F, J, or M status who fail to maintain their status on or after August 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:

  • The day after they no longer pursue the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after they engage in an unauthorized activity;
  • The day after completing the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training plus any authorized grace period;
  • The day after the I-94 expires; or
  • The day after an immigration judge, or in certain cases, the BIA, orders them excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

Accruing unlawful presence can prevent an individual from being able obtain a change of status to another visa category while in the United States or obtaining a new visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.  It can also prevent an individual from obtaining US Residency (green card).  It is very important that international students and exchange visitors understand this new guidance and confer with their immigration attorney regarding any questions.

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].