OSC Document Abuse Settlements

The Errors that Employers Commit

Some hiring mistakes end up costing employers a lot of money and time, and loss of reputation. This past October, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) arrived at an agreement with the New Jersey-based home healthcare provider, Advantage Home Care, LLC, which was charged for violating the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Advantage Home Care was asking new hires, who were lawful permanent residents, to present additional and different documents during the Form I-9 employment eligibility verification process.

The claim was brought to OSC by an individual who applied for a job. When the individual applied to Advantage Home Care, the company ran a criminal background check and wrongly determined that the individual was using an invalid Social Security number (SSN). The individual went to the Social Security Administration, which concluded that the SSN was valid; however, Advantage Home Care would not employ the applicant. Upon further investigation, OSC found that Advantage Home Care required lawful permanent residents to provide more documents to validate work authorization than US citizens. The INA prohibits such discrimination.

In early October, similar charges were brought upon Las Vegas-based Tuscany Hotel and Casino, LLC. The company was also found to be using discriminatory practices during the employment eligibility verification and re-verification processes.

A complaint was filed with OSC in May 2012, asserting that Tuscany was asking non-citizen job applicants to provide additional or different documents during the work authorization process; US Citizen applicants were not asked to present more documents. Once hired, and in order to remain employed, the company then asked non-citizen employees to provide further document requests during the re-verification process. Moreover, non-citizen employees were subject to severe reviews, which US citizen employees didn’t have to endure.

Expensive Mistakes for Employers

Per OSC’s agreement with Advantage Home Care, the company will pay $1,633 to the individual and $46,575 in civil penalties to the US. Advantage Home Care must also pay back pay to previous job applicants who suffered financially from the company’s policy. Additionally, the company’s human resources staff will be trained in employers’ responsibilities and best practices to prevent discrimination during the employment eligibility verification process. In order to ensure compliance, Advantage Home Care’s staff will also be monitored by OSC for three years.

Under the agreement, Tuscany will pay $49,000 in civil penalties to the US and make payments to the complainant. Tuscany will administer new employment eligibility verification policies and practices that will eradicate any employment-based discrimination. Additionally, the company will train its staff on how best to avoid discrimination in the verification process, and will be monitored for compliance.

Lessons Learnt

Employers must train HR personnel on the proper documentation methods for ‘onboarding’ employees. In addition to training, written guidance or manuals for proper intake are necessary to avoid financial penalties, and work stoppage due to worksite audit. Losses may occur because workers are redirected to answering the government, providing requested documents and undergoing mandatory training as part of the worksite enforcement action. An employer’s reputation can suffer because the audit and fines are reported on government and public websites, and news media. Employers can use an immigration attorney to prevent these costly mistakes.

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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How DACA Affects Employers

As of today, USCIS has received 298,834 applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) eligibility. Of these, 53,273 have been approved; workers who have been approved will either seek new employment or continue with past employment. My previous blog post from mid-October discussed how employers could unintentionally admit to ‘knowingly’ hiring unauthorized workers who apply for DACA.

DACA allows illegal immigrants, who meet certain guidelines, to remain in the US. Individuals who receive approval, also receive USCIS-issue work authorization cards called Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to demonstrate eligibility to work in the US for US employers.

Under current law, employers must keep a Form I-9 for all hired employees, both citizens and non-citizens, who are engaged to work in the US. USCIS has now issued specific guidance for employers about treatment of DACA recipients’ EAD cards, and procedures to record and process their Forms I-9 for these employees.

Hiring new Employees with EAD cards issued under DACA

In order to properly complete a Form I-9, certain documentation is required to prove both identity and employment authorization; under List A, an unexpired EAD is an acceptable document for Form I-9 completion.

The DACA EAD provides proof that an employee has been allowed to stay in the US and has been authorized to work, but has no legal status. The employer can enter EAD information in Section 2 under List A since an EAD card provides both proof of identity and work authorization. The EAD alone provides I-9 proof of the employee’s ability to work in the US; if the employer is presented with an EAD, he or she may not ask for additional documents. When an EAD expires, the employer must reverify that the employee still has work authorization in Section 3 of Form I-9.

Guidance for Processing Existing Employees

Employers who collect updated documentation from employees should examine the employee’s previously completed Form I-9 to decide whether a new Form I-9 should be completed for that employee, or decide to only complete Section 3 of the original Form I-9.

Employers should complete a new Form I-9, write the original hire date in Section 2 and attach the new I-9 to the old I-9 if any of the following changes from Section 1 of the previously completed I-9:

  • employee’s name
  • date of birth
  • attestation
  • social security number (if one was provided)

Employers should only complete Section 3 of the previously completed I-9 if:

  • information from Section 1 hasn’t changed or if
  • the employee provides a new EAD

The employer should examine the documentation for authenticity; and, if provided, record the document title, number and expiration date. Employers should also sign and date Section 3.

Guidance on E-Verify

If the employer must complete a new Form I-9, and uses E-Verify, then the employer should confirm the new I-9 information through E-Verify. If the employer only has to complete Section 3 of I-9, then an E-Verify check is not required.

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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ICE’s Official Guidelines for Electronic I-9 System Audits

In response to an electronic Forms I-9 provider, US Immigration and Customs (ICE) issued guidelines for maintaining an electronic I-9 system for employers.

In early October, ICE issued their official guidelines for assessing electronic Form I-9 systems in an audit. These guidelines tell Homeland Security Investigator (HSI) agents and auditors what Form I-9 information to gather from employers’ electronic systems – guidelines that also help HSI agents to determine I-9 related fines, based on electronic I-9 requirements.

Though ICE has been continually augmenting regulations for its two-year-old electronic I-9 system, storing Forms I-9 electronically is still an employer’s safest bet. Storing Forms I-9 electronically helps to minimize paperwork and paperwork errors; it also allows for easier management and incorporation of E-Verify, which saves time and prevents variances.

A New Framework

In an effort to streamline their I-9 audit procedures, ICE has created a new framework for assessing I-9 systems. If you’re sent a Notice of Inspection (NOI), these are the things you need to know:

1. Audit Trail

Full electronic I-9 compliance means employers must have an audit trail. ICE guidelines require an employer’s electronic system to make a secure and permanent record – and for this record to reflect the date of use, why it was used and what it was used for – when an electronic Form I-9 is created or changed. Since this is the number one investigative method for ICE, it should be an employer’s number one priority.

In order to show the audit trail, specific actions should be taken by an employer when creating and managing Form I-9. A thorough electronic I-9 system will record:

    • the creation of a form for an employee
    • personal information, employee testimony, electronic signatures and dates, any further documentation
    • any updated or altered information

Such a trail is needed so that ICE agents can determine whether an employer’s practices are in compliance with ICE regulations, and whether ICE must issue civil fines.

2. Software Provider & Operating Procedure

When an employer receives an NOI, ICE will ask for the name of the employer’s electronic I-9 system software provider. ICE needs this information so that the agents can gain a better understanding of how the system functions.

In an audit, the employer will have to provide a thorough explanation of their operating system. The employer should make ICE’s job as easy as possible; the employer’s chosen system should be simple and easy to use.

3. Indexing System

Indexing systems catalog employees by name and other attributes, which is helpful in the case of an ICE audit. Employers must make sure that their indexing systems have safeguards that can avoid duplication of employees or Forms I-9. Employers should steer away from systems that merge payroll, tax and employment verification with Forms I-9 – these different areas of information should be stored separately.

4. Electronic Signature

ICE’s regulations on electronic signatures are somewhat unclear. What is clear is that employers must develop a standard procedure for acquiring an employee’s electronic signature, and must guarantee that the signature on the Form I-9 is actually the employee’s. ICE will inspect electronic signatures to ensure that the “significance”– that the employee understands what he/she is signing – has been maintained.

5. Hardcopies

ICE regulations require that an employer’s operating system be able to produce hardcopies of electronic Forms I-9; the best systems will allow the employer to download a PDF version of electronic records.

6. System Demonstration

A system demonstration doesn’t seem like a necessity, but sometimes software vendors have a knack for misleading their customers. For a better user experience, some vendors have added fields, which are not on the original Form I-9; or they have moved fields around – i.e. fields from section 2 are in section 1. Such renderings can sometimes lead to accidental in compliance, and alter the meaning of the form.

Conclusion

While many employers are in favor of electronic I-9 systems – it reduces paperwork and is easily accessible – let us remember two cases. The first is the case of Abercrombie & Fitch, where the electronic I-9 system erased several employees’ records and the company was unable to produce them in reply to an NOI from ICE. The second is the case of UCSD Medical Center, where the electronic I-9 system prompted HR to ask for documents that were not required from naturalized citizens and permanent residents, leading to charges of document abuse and monetary fines.

Different electronic vendors have different programs – before entering into or storing Form I-9 electronically, the employer needs to do some due diligence to ensure the program follows compliance procedures mandated by ICE. It’s best to consult an immigration attorney when previewing an electronic system.

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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Employers Could Admit to ‘Knowingly’ Hiring

Young immigrants applying to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) must prove that they have lived in the US for at least five years, and one way to obtain evidence is to ask employers to supply proof of job status. However, employers who consent might also be admitting that they ‘knowingly’ hired an unauthorized worker, which violates federal law.

Low Figures

There are an estimated 1.2 million young immigrants who are eligible for DACA, but since Aug. 15, when US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has only received over 82,000 applications. Figures are lower than predicted, partly because of unforeseen drawbacks in DACA guidelines.

If young immigrants receive eligibility for DACA, they receive deferred action and legal work permits; but they do not receive legal immigration status. While DACA does not lead to a ‘green card’, in most states, applicants are eligible for a driver’s license, a huge benefit.

‘Knowingly’ Hiring and New DACA Guidelines

In order to be eligible, young immigrants must be enrolled in school or have a high school diploma, which may present a dilemma for employers and applicants alike. Many employers rely on low-wage labor in order to run their businesses, and many employees are young immigrants who must work in order to pay for university, or who were forced to drop out because they couldn’t afford university costs. It is estimated that 740,000 working immigrants are eligible for DACA.

USCIS, a division of DHS, made addendums to the DACA guidelines, confirming that employers can help verify DACA applicants. Evidence of knowingly hiring unauthorized workers will not be revealed, “unless there is evidence of egregious violations of criminal statutes or widespread abuses,” the guidelines state. All DHS enforcement resources are being directed towards threats on public safety.  However, the term ‘egregious violations’, has not been defined in the guidance.

DACA guidelines ask applicants to provide any Social Security numbers (SSN) they have previously used. Falsification of SSNs, whether they are fake numbers or real numbers belonging to someone else, is a common occurrence and can be seen as evidence of fraud or identity theft. However, the new guidelines state that the form is only inquiring about numbers, “that were officially issued to you by the Social Security Administration.”  Hence no disclosure of social security numbers is required if the number was not specifically applied for by the applicant. This is a huge relief for E-verify employers, who may reduce the possibility of facing social security mismatches and tentative non-confirmation messages from the Social Security Administration.

The bottom line is that no DACA applicant will be given immunity, but DHS is not interested in using the application as a means to discover individuals who may have abused federal law in an employee-employer relationship.

(NYTimes, “Deportation Deferrals Put Employers of Immigrants in a Bind”, 9/26/2012)

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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The Plan for More Visas for STEM Grads

Earlier this September, Sen. Charles Schumer introduced the Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes (BRAINS) Act to the Senate. BRAINS proposes to make 55,000 more green cards available for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates, over a two-year period.

STEM graduates are foreign-born students who have obtained graduate degrees from American universities in science, technology, engineering or math. In order to receive a green card, the graduate must have a US job offer in one of these four fields.

Texas Rep. Lamar Smith also proposed a similar bill to the House. Unlike Schumer’s BRAINS Act, Smith’s bill recommends an elimination of diversity visas, the US’s lottery program for receiving a US Permanent Resident Card. The diversity visa program makes 55,000 visas available to people with certain eligibilities, and who have emigrated from countries with low US immigration rates.

The House bill did not pass. Democrats were against Smith’s bill, which they believe will reduce legal immigration. Both parties want to make more green cards available for STEM graduates, but have not agreed on a plan of action. Schumer’s bill will go through the Senate before November elections.

Microsoft’s Proposal

Microsoft is also lobbying Congress to boost the number of H1b visas that companies use by 20,000. Currently, Microsoft has 6,000 job openings, more than half of which necessitate expertise in the fields of technology and science. However, there is a gap between available jobs and job seekers’ ability levels – Microsoft’s petition targets this issue.

In Microsoft’s petition, the company recommends increasing H1B visa fees to $10,000 in order to create a STEM adaptation of the Race to the Top federal grant program that stimulates school education improvements. The program would be called Race to the Future, which would pay to hire STEM teachers and include computer science classes in schools.

Microsoft proposes giving STEM employees access to 20,000 green cards, an action that would begin to undertake the large build up of green cards, while also allowing skilled workers to remain in the US and contribute to our economy.

The problem with Microsoft’s proposal is that the scheme shuts out smaller employers who already pay substantial amounts in immigration and other fees to increase their workforce by sponsoring H1B visa holders. The scheme will create a two tier system of petitioners for visas.

Effect on the US Economy

Call and write your Senator about supporting increased visas for STEM graduates so that we keep their valuable knowledge in the US and prevent reverse ‘brain drain’. These graduates create jobs in other ‘support’ fields, promote innovation and contribute to the tax base.

See you in my next blog.

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

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Justice Department Finds Practices of Discriminatory Policing in North Carolina

The Justice Department found that the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) in North Carolina operates in a practice of discriminatory policing, specifically targeting Latinos.

Policing Practices in Violation of the Constitution and Federal Law

By using methods that discriminate against Latinos, ACSO has violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; the Fourth Amendment; the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act; and Title VI. ACSO’s modes of discriminatory policing are as follows:

  • ACSO deputies target Latino drivers for traffic stops;
  • A study of ACSO’s traffic stops on three major county roadways found that deputies were between four and 10 times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latino drivers;
  • ACSO deputies routinely locate checkpoints just outside Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents to endure police checks when entering or leaving their communities;
  • ACSO practices at vehicle checkpoints often vary based on a driver’s ethnicity.   Deputies insist on examining identification of Latino drivers, while allowing drivers of other ethnicities to pass through without showing identification;
  • ACSO deputies arrest Latinos for minor traffic violations, while issuing citations or warnings to non-Latinos for the same violations;
  • ACSO uses jail booking and detention practices, including practices related to immigration status checks, that discriminate against Latinos;
  • The sheriff and ACSO’s leadership explicitly instruct deputies to target Latinos with discriminatory traffic stops and other enforcement activities;
  • The sheriff and ACSO leadership foster a culture of bias by using anti-Latino epithets; and
  • ACSO engages in substandard reporting and monitoring practices that mask its discriminatory conduct. (source)

Policing Reforms

The Justice Department’s inquiry allowed for a thorough investigation, comprising of a detailed analysis of ACSO policies, procedures, training materials and records on traffic stops, arrests, citations, vehicle checkpoints and other archived evidence. For the inquiry, the Justice Department also interviewed former ACSO employees and Alamance County residents.

In order to reform ACSO’s discriminatory policing, the police department must accept structural and fundamental change by creating and employing new policies, procedures, and training so as to promote constitutional policing. ACSO must also be held accountable for their actions, and guarantee the Justice Department that any unlawful bias has been eradicated. The Justice Department will request a court-enforced, written document that will help to solve ACSO’s violations.

See you in my next blog.

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

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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New PERM Issues for Employers – Interviewing US applicants

Consider these facts: ABC company has a valuable employee for whom they have filed a PERM application with the Department of Labor. The job requirements are a Master’s degree with a very specific set of skills.

Select International Inc.

In the matter of Select International, Inc., a decision issued by Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) on 19 September 2012, the board held that if a US worker submits a broad resume in response to an advertisement for a job opening, the employer must not only review the application, but must also provide in-depth reasoning as to why the US worker does not meet the minimum experience requirements for the job advertised.

Select International advertised a position for an industrial/organizational psychologist. The company stated that they would accept any suitable combination of experience, training and education (Kellogg language). Resumes from three potentially qualified applicants were rejected for not meeting the employer’s minimum requirements. Select International did not interview the applicants or send letters of rejection. The employer in particular rejected Avi Avigdor, a US worker who applied for the job opportunity. BALCA denied labor certification because no further consideration was given to his resume beyond a review.

To conduct a recruitment in good faith, an employer “must take steps to ensure that it has lawful job related reasons for rejecting US applicants, and not stop short of fully investigating an applicants qualifications” (E. Tenn. State Univ.). No US worker should be rejected for lacking the skills necessary to perform the duties involved if they are capable of acquiring the skills during a reasonable period of job training, and there is no lawful job-related reason for rejecting the US worker.

Select International stated that the job opportunity was for a person with a masters degree in industrial/organizational psychology and required 36 months of experience, and that coursework must include personnel selection; employment law; legal issues related thereto; candidate testing and selection; job analysis; development of job candidate selection tools; and advanced statistical analysis using statistical methodologies. Select International also state in Form 9089 that it would accept any suitable combination of education, training or experience.

The job required development of new assessment tools and techniques; in-depth statistical analysis; detailed reports; and recommendations. Select International stated that Mr. Avigdor did not meet minimum experience requirements because his 47 months of experience was not related to the job duties to be performed in the  position offered. The company also noted that none of the positions held by Mr. Avigdor involved skills listed on the PERM application, nor did he have the experience to perform the core duties required by the job. Therefore, he did not have the combination of educational training and experience to qualify for the position.

The PERM certification was denied on the basis that Mr. Avigdor’s credentials were not investigated fully.

What is an employer to do?

Given the facts of this case, perhaps the best course of action for an employer is to interview all suitable applicants and to document job-related reasons for rejection. Kellogg language should be used sparingly on PERM applications, unless employers are willing to accept any suitable combination of education, training and experience from US job applicants with broad resumes.

See you in my next blog.

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

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Health Law Limitations for Young Immigrants

In June, President Obama was pleased to announce the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Memorandum – but with some ineligibilities. The Obama Administration has ruled that young immigrants, who can apply to DACA, will not qualify for health insurance under Obama’s health care renovations.

Young Immigrants Ineligible for Health Law

Normally, immigrants would fall under the definition of “lawfully present” residents, which qualifies them for government subsidies to purchase private insurance, a major facet of the new health care law. However in August, the administration declared that young immigrants will be barred from the definition of “lawfully present”.

Obama’s administration also announced that young immigrants will not be eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program – the areas of immigration and health care coverage are separate issues.

Immigration and Health Laws are Unrelated

The administration further justified their decision by stating that the immigration initiative is “an exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” that has been enacted so law enforcement officers can differentiate between immigrants who will cause a threat to national security or public safety.

According to the new federal health law, only citizens and “lawfully present” low-income immigrants are eligible for insurance subsidies. This group still includes green card holders and people granted asylum.

Immigrants who are employed, and qualify for DACA, will still be able to receive health insurance from employers; however, those who are not covered by employers will struggle to gain coverage.

(NYTimes, “Limits Placed on Immigrants in Health Law”, 18 Sept 2012)

See you in my next blog.

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

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Employer Liability on DACA Issues

Mike is 27 and has a GED; he is employed by XYZ company. He applies for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Memorandum. When he goes to his boss at XYZ, he tenders the EAD as evidence of his newly minted status as being allowed to work legally. While DACA does not confer status on Mike, he is now allowed to work legally for XYZ. Many employer liability issues arise from this scenario.

Employer Liability

Firstly, as the employer, XYZ could have constructive knowledge of the employee‘s prior unauthorized status. Hence, the employer could be charged under Missouri Omnibus immigration law as ‘knowingly’ employing an unauthorized worker in the US. In addition, XYZ could be charged with violating Form I-9 laws.

Secondly, the employer may have other potential Form I-9 issues. Now that the employer has constructive knowledge of the employee not having work authorization in the US, the employer may have to seriously consider terminating the employee, or could potentially become liable of knowingly retaining an employee whose immigration status is under question.

However, an employer is not supposed to be an immigration document expert. If the employer previously employed a worker who provided false documents that appeared to be valid and to relate to the individual employee, then the employer may provide a “good faith argument” if there is an ICE audit.

Yet, if a prior employee now declares that he/she is eligible for DACA work authorization, the employer needs to make certain that this policy of terminating this ‘newly discovered’ unauthorized employee does not discriminate against other similarly placed employees in the employer’s workforce. In other words, the employer cannot have one policy towards ‘seemingly foreign looking individuals’ and another policy towards ‘seemingly US born individuals’ if both populations present with similar DACA-related issues. This is called national origin discrimination.

Form I-9 Issues

The employer, under I-9 guidance, may have to terminate the employee who needs DACA employment authorization in order to continue working with the employee. The employer may have to terminate the employee and, if needed, rehire after new DACA-related employment authorization has been produced by the employee. The employer may also have to manage employer liability, and purge their employment records of all unnecessary I-9 documents in line with USCIS guidance.

See you in my next blog.

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

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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What An Employer Should Do Now that H-1B Visas are Over

As of December 1, 2011, the US Consulate General in Chennai will process all Blanket L Visas. The New Delhi US Embassy and Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad US Consulates no longer process petitions for Blanket L Visas. Visas for dependent spouse and children (L-2) and individual visas (L-1A and L-1B) can still be processed at the Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi posts.

What is a Blanket L Visa?

A Blanket L visa is available to employees whose employers hold such a designation to file L visas under a Blanket L permit, issued by the Department of State. To be eligible, an employer must be in business in the US for more than one year; have three or more domestic or foreign, subsidiaries or affiliates; and be engaged in commercial trade or services. The employer must also have annual US sales of $25 million; a US workforce of 1,000 employees; or the employer should have received at least 10 L petitions in the last 12 months. An employer may be in danger of losing their Blanket L permit if they file fewer than 10 petitions in the prior year. Only commercial employers can be approved for a Blanket L permit; non-profits are not eligible.

Blanket L visas are for employees who have, in the three past years, been employed abroad for one year and will continue to be employed by the same company in the US. Employees can either be petitioned individually or under a blanket, and must meet the criteria of a “specialized knowledge” professional, executive or manager.

Three Major Issues

1. Will the L visa employee work at client sites?

If your answer is yes, then you must establish an employer-employee relationship during the time the employee is working at a third party worksite on behalf of the petitioner (employer). If the employee is to work in the office of the L visa employer, then that fact should be made very clear both in the documentation and at the interview. Consular officers are very concerned about L visas being misused by employers and being used when H-1B visas are no longer available.

At the US Consulate, the employee is often asked to go up to a window to answer questions. The interview is about 5 minutes, and very often consular officers may not have the time to read the entire petition. If the employee is to work on a particular project at a site other than the US employer’s offices, that fact should also be presented both at the interview and substantiated in the application.

L visa employees must be ready to answer any and all questions, and justify the reason for working at a end-client’s office instead of working at the L visa employer’s office.

2. Is the salary of an ordinary programmer or of a specialist in an L-1B visa category?

Salary earnings in India are indicative of the level of services an employee provides for his/her company; there is certainly a difference between IT workers who complete general services and those who have specialized knowledge. If the applicant is earning a sizeable salary, it is important to state the applicant’s salary in the support letter; salaries are often indicative of a specialist eligible for an L-1B visa instead of a programmer more suited to H-1B visa category status.

It is these distinctions that have caused a rise in the denial rate, 27%, of all filed L visa applications.

3. Is the applicant’s work in India not indicative of a specialized job?

The consular officers will most likely deduce that the applicant has no specialized knowledge if the applicant’s work in India is based in general services. This can include testing; enterprise recourse planning maintenance; or execution of Oracle, Microsoft or SAP software.

Experience

L-1B visa holders are supposed to be specialists; if the applicant has a three-year degree and one year of experience, then the consular officer is not likely to consider the applicant experienced enough to warrant an L-1B visa approval. The standard by which L visa applications are approved is “clearly approvable”. Hence, the burden of proving L visa eligibility lies with the employer. If the L visa has been approved by USCIS, the US Consulate may grant the L visa unless special circumstances exist, or the consulate determines more evidence is required.

We live in a climate where no USCIS application is sacrosanct, and where the Department of State often re-adjudicates USCIS approvals.

B-1 In Lieu of H-1B

The B-1 In Lieu of H-1B visa is a hybrid visa, a cross between a business visa and an employment visa in the US. The employee with H-1B visa qualifications comes to the US instead on a business visa (B-1), applies for the visa at the consulate and declares intent at the border. This employee cannot receive any remuneration in the US other than an expense allowance.

However, this visa is under attack. Employers should demonstrate that there are unexpected circumstances and an urgent need for the employee to obtain a B-1 Visa In Lieu of an H-1B. The controversy arises over the extent to which the B-1 visa is used or misused in lieu of an H-1B. Even if the consulate grants this visa, it is likely that the visa holder may encounter difficulty at the US port of entry.

True need for the visa must be well-planned to demonstrate the benefit of the short-term visit to the foreign employer, as opposed to the US client.

See you in my next blog.

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

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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