New Look to Green Cards & EAD Cards  

USCIS will start issuing redesigned cards with enhanced graphics to applicants.  The new cards will start being issued on May 1, 2017.

These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant to prevent document tampering, counterfeiting and fraud; than the ones currently in use.

The Redesigned Cards

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.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid

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.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card.

Employers, please note that both the older version and the new cards 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.

Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date. Obtaining the replacement card will reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA ▪ nsm@mlolaw.us ▪ Office: 314.932.7111 & 314.402.2024

Disclaimer:  Not meant as legal advice! For information purposes only.

 

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Students at at UNNJ lose their visa!

ICE cancels F-1 Student visas

On April 4 and 5, 2016, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) terminated the visa of nonimmigrant students who had enrolled at the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), and the visas of nonimmigrant students who had transferred from UNNJ.

Why?

The students were found to have knowingly participated in visa fraud because they enrolled at UNNJ to obtain an illegal to maintain their F-1 nonimmigrant status.

UNNJ is a school operated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark. It was created as a part of an enforcement action that targeted SEVP-certified schools and officials who sought to fraudulently utilize SEVP and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to commit various violations of federal law.

There are approximately 60 students who are affected and who will receive notification of cancellation of their visa.

Students who are terminated because they were currently  or  enrolled before at UNNJ and choose not to file for reinstatement or have applied to USCIS for reinstatement and whose application is denied, must depart the country immediately.

Not Eligible for Transfer

These students are not eligible for to transfer to another SEVP-certified school unless U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the student for reinstatement following the student’s termination. Students who transferred to another school from UNNJ will also be terminated and their new school will be notified of the cancellation of their visa.

What to do now?

Call SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400. This number is staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday, except holidays. The SEVP Response Center is closed every Wednesday from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. ET for system maintenance and testing.

Provide the following information when calling:

  • First and last name
  • SEVIS ID number
  • Address
  • Telephone number where you can be reached
  • E-mail address
  • Current SEVP-certified school

Nalini Mahadevan JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

314-932-7111 office

nsm@mlolaw.us

website: Mlolaw.us

Disclaimer:  Not meant as legal advice. NOT meant to create an attorney client relationship.  Please call an attorney to obtain advice pertaining to your legal situation.

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The Good Faith Criterion: Lessons Learned From US vs. M&D Masonry and Form I-9

In 2010, ICE alleged in two counts that M&D Masonry committed 364 violations against the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The first count charged that 277 of M&D’s employees didn’t correctly complete section 1 and 2 of Form I-9; the second count charged that M&D didn’t have proper paperwork for 87 additional employees. The company refuted ICE’s allegations, and protested to 40 of the 277 violations named in Count I, and six of the 87 violations named in Count II.

For Count I, the government contests that M&D failed to ensure that:

  • 34 employees signed the attestation in section 1 of Form I-9;
  • 60 employees checked a box in section 1;
  • three employees attested to only one status in section 1; and
  • 10 employees who attested to status as lawful permanent residents entered their respected alien numbers on the adjacent line.

For Count II, M&D failed to:

  • complete section 2 of Form I-9 properly;
  • sign section 2;
  • record the issuing authority for a List B document;
  • provide the document number for List A, List B, and List C documents; and
  • review both List B and C documents.

Additionally, M&D instead accepted unacceptable documents, and didn’t examine or authenticate many I-9 forms within three business days of the individual’s hire date.

Among the defenses, the company alleges that the proposed monetary fines are exorbitant and do not consider the M&D’s financial abilities; and that ICE’s enforcement practices are unreasonable and impulsive. On January 6, 2014, ICE revised its complaint and retracted 25 of the named persons in Count I. According to the US government, M&D supplied satisfactory evidence that demonstrated that those employees had been dismissed before ICE’s inquiry, and wasn’t within the purview of the audit.

Lesson 1

A newspaper article is actually what led ICE to inspect and fine M&D Masonry. On April 30, 2010 an article titled “Illegal hiring for airport construction?” was printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The article cited a hiring foreman for M&D who said that the company was hiring people without sufficient work authorization. ICE conducted a worksite enforcement inquiry on May 7, 2010; subsequently, ICE served M&D with a Notice of Inspection (NOI) for current and past employee I-9 forms from May 7, 2007 to May 7, 2010, and for employment records, payroll data, and wage and hour reports. ICE then issued M&D with slew of other notices throughout 2010 and 2012, including a Notice of Technical and Procedural Failures (NTPF), a Notice of Suspect Documents (NSD), and a Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF).

Lesson 2 & 3

M&D was timely in their response to ICE, and filed a Request for Hearing a month after ICE issued the NIF.

After acquiring and studying M&D’s Wage Inquiry by Employer Number records—obtained from the Georgia Department of Labor—Count II of ICE’s allegations concluded that M&D failed to prepare I-9 forms for 87 employees. M&D’s violations in Count II are far more egregious than Count I because failure to properly prepare and/or present I-9 forms destroys the purpose of the INA.

Penalties

M&D believed that ICE should fine the company based on its financial means; however, the governing statute asserts that such consideration is only applicable in five certain circumstances; M&D did not fall within the scope of those circumstances. While some OCAHO cases have previously taken financial means into consideration when determining penalties in a case, such leeway is not required of the government.

ICE fined M&D $332,813.25 for 339 violations, where each violation cost $981.75. Each violation incurred a baseline penalty of $935, also taking into account the employer’s 84% error rate. ICE heightened the penalties by 5 percent for the significance of the violations—over 100 I-9 forms were purportedly verified by signature stamp, although section I of the forms reflected various dates—and 5 percent for the size of the company: M&D had been in business for over 20 years, employed over 400 workers in a three year period, had a payroll of $4.3 million, and a large amount of contracted work. ICE handled the inclusion of unauthorized workers and absence of previous violations as neutral; ICE also lessened the penalties by 5 percent due to the good faith criterion.

ICE was charitable by applying the good faith criterion in M&D’s case. The good faith criterion is gauged by a study of whether the employer tried to comply with the INA obligations before the delivery of the NOI. Since M&D’s case isn’t the most extreme example of the INA violations, the penalties were lessened to a grand total of $228,300.

Takeaway

Incorrectly preparing and/or presenting a Form I-9 is one of the grievous paperwork violations an employer can make. Good faith is only taken into account when an employer actually attempts to determine its legal duties and yield to them. When judging suitable violations of the INA, the following must be favored:

  1. size of the employer;
  2. employer’s good faith;
  3. gravity of violations;
  4. whether an individual is an unauthorized alien; and
  5. employer’s history of previous violations.
See you in my next blog.
Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Mandatory E-Verify Bill

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has proposed a new bill to the Senate, The Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act of 2013, that would obligate US employers to utilize E-Verify within 12 months of the bill’s passing. Sen. Grassley is the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which supervises the Senate’s immigration policy, and is also a member of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. Grassley’s bill was cosponsored by 10 other Republican Senators.

Details of the Proposed Bill

In addition to requiring E-Verify for all American employers, Sen. Grassley’s legislation would:

  • Increases penalties for employers who don’t use the system or illegally hire undocumented workers;
  • Reduces the liability that employers face if they participate in E-Verify when it involves the wrongful termination of an individual;
  • Allows employers to use E-Verify before a person is hired, if the applicant consents;
  • Requires employers to check the status of existing employees within 3 years;
  • Requires employers to re-verify a person’s status if their employment authorization is due to expire;
  • Requires employers to terminate the employment of those found unauthorized to work due to a check through E-Verify; and
  • Helps ensure that the Social Security Administration catches multiple use of Social Security numbers by requiring them to develop algorithms to detect anomalies.

For Employers

In addition to the various labor and employment laws mandated by the States and the Federal Government, mandatory E-verify would impose a larger burden on companies. Perhaps we should address what causes employers to use workers who are not authorized to work, and why these undocumented individuals exist in the workforce despite efforts to root them out!

The Takeaway

Let us emulate Canada, which imports low skilled workers every year — who return to their home countries every winter season. The US needs to increase the number of work visas for both the low skilled, agricultural, hospitality and construction workers. Most of them would like to work legally (less stress) and return. This will reduce ‘coyote’ activity at the border: why would a person risk crossing illegally when they can enter through the border, and return to their homes without the fear of being caught and living in the shadows.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Why Comprehensive Immigration Reform Has a Chance to Pass This Year

Since President Obama was inaugurated for his second term, he has made Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) a key policy initiative for his administration. Interest groups from the left and right, and even some Republicans, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are also in support of a comprehensive overhaul of US immigration laws.

Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State in the Bush Administration), Henry Cisneros (former Housing and Urban Development Secretary) and Haley Barbour (former Mississippi Governor) are three of 4 leaders spearheading a high profile group by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C. The group’s aim is to act as a sounding board, and to assist and shepherd the initiative into law by the summer of 2013.

Bipartisan support continues, as Senators from both parties have also offered Obama a framework of principles that they hope will be included in CIR. This bipartisan group consists of eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans: Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

A Round Up of Ideas Offered by Proponents

The draft of the Senators’ proposed bill, entitled the “Immigration Innovation Act”, increases available H1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 visas every year. It will create a market-based H1B escalator, which will allow for additional visas if the cap is hit early during the filing season, with a ceiling of 300,000 visas. The visas will be adjusted based on market demands.

The 20,000 H1B visa cap for US Masters and PhD students will also be abolished, allowing the US employer to employ foreign students of US universities with advanced degrees without limit.

This bill will provide the ‘plug and play’ workers needed by all sectors of industry, whether it be healthcare or hospitality; workers who are ready to hit the ground running, and keep services for the American consumer consistently available.

In addition, there is a proposal to allow dependents of H1B visas to work on their H4 visas.  Of course, there will be an increase in the filing fee, dedicated to worker re-training at the state level in technical fields.

The senators’ framework stipulates that, before illegal US immigrants can attain “probationary legal status”, they must pass a background check, as well as pay fines and back taxes. Illegal immigrants with serious criminal backgrounds will not be eligible for legal status. Additionally, the framework states that illegal immigrants will not be granted work authorization until the government increases enforcement, such as expanded border surveillance, to protect and secure the nation’s borders.

The President’s Plan Is Not So Differrent

Obama’s proposal for immigration reform comes in four parts:

  1. Strengthen our borders;
  2. crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers;
  3. hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; and
  4. streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers and employers.

Earned Citizenship

Almost 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the US. Obama proposes to give undocumented immigrants the legal means necessary to earn citizenship, which will also persuade them to come out from hiding and pay their taxes and adhere to the rules. Illegal immigrants will be held accountable: before they can obtain citizenship, they must pass national security and criminal background checks, pay back taxes and penalties, learn English, and go to the back of the line. Young people will also have the chance to gain citizenship faster if they seek higher education or serve in the military.

Mandatory E-verify

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has introduced a mandatory E-Verify bill, which will require all employers to verify the authorized work status of their US workers. Today, the E-Verify system is voluntary; however, Sen. Grassley’s bill requires all employers to comply within 1 year of enactment. The bill will reduce employer’s liability for wrongful termination, and use E-verify to screen an applicant with his/her consent. The bill also imposes a mandate on the Social Security Administration to develop algorithms to detect multiple users of single Social Security numbers.

How will CIR help our economy?

Our economy demands legal immigration that is simple and adept, so that it encourages the best and the brightest to remain in the USA. A shorter wait for permanent resident status for the highly educated immigrants will boost the economy — if it is easier for STEM graduates to stay in the US, they will bolster and create industries, therefore creating jobs.

University education in the US will get a boost from the revenues generated by foreign students and their families; estimates put the revenue generated by foreign students at about $20 to $40 billion dollars every year. Often, American universities spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars educating these students, only to lose them to Canada, Australia, UK and Europe, or the students’ home countries. A chance for these students to remain in the US and pursue their academic and entrepreneurial dreams will add to the economy.

The taxes collected from the highly educated will help ensure that our Social Security and Medicare budgets are met. This revenue stream will be enhanced by offering a chance for a legalized workforce to pay employment-based taxes. These taxes will reduce the strain on American social systems, such as hospitals and schools. A legal workforce will be paid the mandated prevailing wage. Without a Social Security Number, a worker cannot open a bank account, buy car insurance, obtain a driver’s license, or attend school or college. Hence, a legalized workforce will provide a boost to the insurance, banking and finance industries, and increase wages for all, as employers will now pay the legal minimum wage.

The proposals all call for supplemental visas so that foreign entrepreneurs wanting to begin startups, and foreign graduate students with STEM degrees, will either come to the US to work or remain in the US post-graduation. We want, and need, the best and brightest minds for the US to flourish.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Negotiating I-9 Fines

In my previous blog, I wrote about OCAHO negotiating I-9 fines. To negotiate fines either with ICE or OCAHO, the employer must be willing to file a brief with OCAHO to request a hearing, and then ICE may be willing to ‘come to the table’.

Prior to the hearing, the employer and counsel must analyse each count against the company, either to accept or refute and prepare a brief accordingly. Both ICE and OCAHO consider the 5 factor test before negotiating a fine:

  1. The size of the employer’s business,
  2. The employer’s good faith,
  3. The severity of the violation(s),
  4. Whether individuals involved were unauthorized aliens, and
  5. A history of former violations by the employer.

Employers must be careful to tender only Forms I-9, which are for current employees, and refrain from tendering purged documents.

Methodical analysis of the NIF (Notice of Intent to Fine), counts and legal basis is a must in order to be ready to negotiate with ICE and, if necessary, to request a hearing from OCAHO.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Recent I-9 Fines Reduced by OCAHO

Recently, the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) has shown a trend of leniency towards companies that are found to be noncompliant with ICE‘s Form I-9 rules and regulations. ICE, on the other hand, isn’t always as forgiving as OCAHO, which can be expressly seen in ICE’s cases against March Construction, Inc., Forsch Polymer Corp., BKR Restaurants (DBA Burger King) and Barnett Taylor (DBA Burger King).

In order to determine a baseline fine for companies, ICE surveys five factors:

  1. The size of the employer‘s business,
  2. The employer’s good faith,
  3. The severity of the violation(s),
  4. Whether individuals involved were unauthorized aliens, and
  5. A history of former violations by the employer.

March Construction, Inc.

The construction company, March Construction, was found liable for a total of 103 violations after assessments made by both ICE and OCAHO. For March Construction, ICE determined a baseline fine of $770, but increased the baseline by 15% due to March Construction’s supposed lack of good faith, severity of violations and employment of undocumented workers. ICE requested $885.50 per violation for a total of $86,933.

OCAHO agreed with ICE on the severity of the violations, however found that ICE had no evidence that March Construction was actually employing undocumented workers. Also, the company’s ability to pay the fines is a major factor. OCAHO ultimately asked for a reduced sum of $17,120.

Forsch Polymer, Corp.

In June 2010, ICE issued a Notice of Inspection (NOI) to Forsch Polymer, asking for Forms 1-9 for all employees from the past year. The company sent ICE only 12 completed I-9s, and was consequently charged with 11 violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), among the violations were failing to properly complete an entire Form I-9 and certain sections of Form I-9. ICE requested a fine of $11,827.75.

However, OCAHO found ICE in error: OCAHO discovered that three of Forsch’s employees did not complete an I-9 within three days of being hired. OCAHO determined that this was the fault of ICE — ICE should have issued a notice and provided ample time for Forsch Polymer to correct these mistakes. OCAHO dismissed the allegations of the company’s failure to complete Forms I-9, but found ICE correct in finding fault with the employer for backdating several Forms I-9.

ICE sought a baseline fine of $935 per violation, aggravating the baseline penalties 5-15% for each violation due to the severity of violations, lack of good faith and employment of four unauthorized aliens. OCAHO ultimately asked for a reduced sum of $4,600.

Burger King

BKR Restaurants and Barnett Taylor both do business as Burger King restaurants, and were both issued NOIs on the same day in December 2007. BKR Restaurants was found liable for a total of 87 violations of IRCA for not having Forms I-9 ready for 22 employees, and improperly completing Forms I-9 for 65 employees. Barnett Taylor was issued similar charges for not having Forms I-9 ready for 74 employees, and improperly completing Forms I-9 for nine employees.

Both BKR Restaurants and Barnett Taylor gave reasons for their failure in properly completing and retaining Forms I-9 for their employees; however, neither restaurant had convincing evidence bolstering their claims. Although OCAHO has supported a trend of reducing penalty amounts, OCAHO still requires companies to provide adequate evidence  against ICE’s allegations. None of the companies’ explanations created a defense of impossibility, which can only be established if the Forms I-9 has been completed but then lost or destroyed in a burglary or fire.

No final penalties were brought upon either restaurant; instead, OCAHO gave both restaurants 30 days to make additional filings — allowing the companies to right their wrongs.

Lesson Learnt

Initiating, processing, maintaining and auditing procedures for companies and employers are absolutely vital to the health of a company. Such procedures will assist in minimizing and quantifying employer liability, and more importantly will assist and enable the counsel for the employer to craft a defense in the event of audit.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Planning For the New Year: Form I-9 and E-Verify

With the new year approaching, employers can make some changes and improvements to processing and maintaining Form I-9s. There are Form I-9 best practices that employers should follow to avoid being fined by ICE in an audit. The following are methods to ensure that you, as an employer, are complying with Form I-9 guidelines that have been implemented by USCIS and enforced by ICE. Please also see my Form I-9 series.
  1. Train your team in-house on how to complete I-9 forms and use E-verify successfully.
  2. Don’t be creative while completing forms. If, for instance, the HR specialist forgot to date the form, or the employee did not fill in Section 1 fully — don’t attempt to back-date the form and ask to the employee to complete Section 1. There is always someone who knows the situation and is watching. You could be threatened with punishment, or other employees could rat you out.
  3. The days of the wild, wild west are gone. Today requires a culture of compliance with the rules and laws. It is too expensive for employers and companies to do otherwise.
  4. Hire outside counsel to conduct a year-end audit of all the new forms created since the beginning of the year. At a recent immigration conference, I heard that more than 85% of I-9 forms are filled incorrectly, which means that self-audit is probably not a good idea. Having another employee conduct an audit can be a tricky situation because he/she may not want to point out a superior’s mistakes. The best way is to engage outside counsel to perform the audit; this audit can be part of a wage and hour audit.
  5. Brainstorm about your on-boarding policies and your “exit” interviews. Review policies for document examination; and recording and re-verification of documents for various visa-based and non-visa-based employees. Aim for consistent employee procedures — this means creating a handbook for procedures. Ensure your employees review the handbook before they attempt to examine and record documents on the I-9.
  6. Beware of audits by other federal agencies — they share information and are looking to collect fines. A wage and hour audit can turn into an I-9 and E-verify audit nightmare.
  7. Audits take time and are an unproductive task: they cost company money and employee time, and lead to lost profits. Take the time to understand the I-9 process.
  8. Audits ruin company reputations — names of companies that are audited are made public on federal websites. ICE, OSC and DOL publish announcements of audits.   Sushi Zushi, a San Antonio restaurant, lost workers and shut down after an announcement of an ICE audit. Employees left in droves; without employees, the restaurant had to shut down 8 locations.
  9. The new I-9 will create new challenges. Allocate a budget for training and compliance.
  10. Reduce liability by purging old I-9s.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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