One of President Trump’s chief agenda items has been immigration enforcement.  While the President’s intent may be to keep out terrorists, remove undocumented foreign nationals, and eliminate fraudulent visa practices, these efforts can also have a tremendous impact on U.S. employers.  One of the ways this administration has ramped up its immigration enforcement efforts has been through an increase in I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form audits to ensure companies and organizations are engaging in fair, non-discriminatory hiring practices and only hiring individuals who have proper work authorization.

While the Form I-9 requirement originates from Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act, all employers are required by law to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each employee, regardless of the employee’s immigration status in the U.S.  So, even a company or organization with only U.S. citizen employees is not necessarily safe from a government-conducted site visit.  For instance, the Immigrant and Employee Rights (IER) Section of the Department of Justice exists to investigate 1) citizenship status discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, 2) national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, 3) unfair documentary practices during the employment eligibility verification, Form I-9 and E-Verify, and 4) allegations of unlawful  retaliation or intimidation.  Note that discrimination can be consider action both for or against U.S. workers or workers of a particular national origin, so if the IER receives a complaint about your company’s hiring or employment practices regardless of who it supposedly helps or harms, it can open a case against your company and investigate the allegation(s) made.  Even if your company has not engaged in prohibited discriminatory practices, your company could still face severe penalties and fines for documentation/paperwork violations that may be found in such an investigation.

In the event that your company is selected for an audit and you have never inspected your Forms I-9 with an experienced counsel, it is possible that there will be numerous I-9 violations per form. These violations can be either civil or criminal.  For example, in a recent I-9 case settlement, a national Chinese fast-food chain was fined $400,000 in civil penalties and was ordered to pay $200,000 in back wages for its unlawful practices.  One of its primary violations was carrying on the practice of re-verifying lawful permanent residents when their green cards expired.  In another case, a Florida staffing company was ordered to pay a fine of $120,000 for requiring non-U.S. citizens to present specific documents, among other violations.  Without proper training in completing the Form I-9, it is not difficult to make sixty-plus violations per form—the average number of I-9 violations a government officer finds on a single I-9 form!

When the government is assessing monetary fines, one of the mitigating factors considered is good faith on the part of the employer.  By proactively taking the first step to have an experienced counsel review your company’s Forms I-9 and making adjustments and corrections before the government pays your company a visit, you may be able to significantly reduce the amount of total fines or even avoid any penalties altogether.

By now, you have undoubtedly heard about the current administration’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and about the proposed travel ban against foreign nationals from certain countries (which continues to be vigorously contested in court). Most recently, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS or the Immigration Service) announced its plan to combat fraud and abuse in the H-1B Visa Program.  The H-1B Visa is a highly popular nonimmigrant visa available to foreign nationals who are being offered a “specialty occupation” position as defined by immigration statutes and regulations.  The Immigration Service has a unit dedicated to preventing fraudulent use of this visa.  (If your company has ever filed an H-1B petition on behalf of an employee, you may recall paying a $500 fraud prevention fee – that fee is used to fund the Immigration Service’s site visits, interviews, and investigations).  Continue Reading Immigration Service to Increase H-1B Site Visits to Combat Fraud and Abuse

As we approach the filing deadline for FY 2018 H-1B cap petitions, there are a couple of updates of which you need to be aware.

First, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has just announced that starting April 3, 2017, it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. Continue Reading Two Immigration Law Updates: Premium Processing for H-1B Temporarily Suspended, and New <em>Handbook for Employers</em> Issued

Last month, we wrote about the new I-9 Form employers must use for all employees starting January 22, 2017.  Today, our Immigration attorneys issued an Advisory to offer some additional guidance and clarification for employers in transitioning from the old I-9 Form to this new Form, and addressing some questions that may come up related to the Form and the use of E-Verify to confirm an employee’s legal status to work in the United States.  This Advisory is based on some information just provided by the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association’s Verification and Documentation Liaison Committee, and our Immigration experts wisely wanted to pass along the advice right away. Continue Reading Update on New I-9 Form and Important Advisory

The most current version of the I-9 form is now available (www.uscis.gov) and employers must use only this version beginning on January 22, 2017.  Some of the key changes to the form include the following:

  • Section 1 – Now asks for “other last names used” rather than “other names used”
  • 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

Continue Reading The New I-9 Form Is Now Available

Listen up, employers:  On August 1 — that’s two days ago! — the Department of Homeland Security increased the Form I-9 violation fines by approximately 96%.  Specifically, the range of fines for violations went from $110-$1,100 per Form I-9 to $216 -$2,156 per Form I-9.  This could be particularly problematic for larger companies, as an untrained staff person completing numerous I-9s incorrectly can lead to an exorbitant amount in fines.  On the other hand, smaller companies have less in volume but sometimes they can commit more substantive errors which can lead to fines on the higher-side of the range.  Both are bad results that your business should want to avoid. Continue Reading I-9 Violation Fines Increased!

If you work in Human Resources, you are surely familiar with the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 (“Form I-9”), and depending on the size of your company’s workforce, you might complete new I-9s on a regular basis.  But have you ever gone back to do an internal audit of the already completed Forms I-9?  Do you know the most common mistakes found on I-9s? Continue Reading Conducting an Internal Audit of Your Company’s I-9 Forms

National_Labor_Relations_Board_logo_-_colorEarlier this year, on March 18, 2015, NLRB General Counsel Richard F. Griffin, Jr. issued a report covering recent cases on employee handbook rules that encroached on employees’ Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act.  Griffin’s report (GC Memo 15-04) stated that the vast majority of handbook violations are due to employers’ failure to comply with the first prong of the Lutheran Heritage test.  The report also provides timely guidance to employers in light of a recent NLRB decision against a fast-food restaurant’s finding Section 7 violations in its employee handbook. Continue Reading “Good” and “Bad” Employee Handbook Rules in Light of Increasing Section 7 Violations: The NLRB GC’s Report