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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Employment Practices that Could Lead to Immigration Discrimination

In order to help employers, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) sometimes answers immigration-related questions about unfair employment practices, such as an employee presenting either invalid or fraudulent documents.

When an employee provides fraudulent documents, an employer is allowed to request the employee to present a different document. However, the employer’s concern may be that the employee could be committing a felony; and that if the employer asks for more documentation, the employee might commit an additional felony.

The employer needs to remember that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) disallows four types of unlawful conduct. The employer is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of:

1. citizenship or immigration status discrimination;
2. national origin discrimination
3. unfair documentary practices during the employment eligibility verification (Form 1-9) process (“document abuse”); and
4 retaliation for filing a charge or asserting rights under the anti-discrimination provision.

(source)

An employer might be in violation of USCIS policy 8 U.S.C. § 1324a, which makes employment of unauthorized aliens unlawful if the employer is aware that a document is fraudulent but accepts it. If an employer rejects a document that seems to be invalid, then the employer is allowed to ask the employee to present a different document from the Lists of Acceptable Documents from Form I-9. In order to steer clear of violating anti-discrimination laws, employers should examine documents equally for all employees.

Company Policy

Another issue pertains to whether a company policy can fire anyone that presents fraudulent documents, and regard such individuals as unqualified for rehire. It is illegal for an employer to ‘knowingly’ hire an individual who is not authorized to work in the US. The statue 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(a)(1) states, “Employers determined to have knowingly hired or continued to employ unauthorized workers…will be required to cease the unlawful activity, may be fined, and in certain situations may be criminally prosecuted.” If an employee’s document is genuine but the employer deems it to be fraudulent, then the employee can bring charges under the anti-discrimination provision, or INA. During such a case, OSC’s investigation would concentrate on the employer’s objective.

Sometimes an employer can have a company policy of regarding individuals who provide invalid documents as unqualified for rehire. An employee can file charges under the anti-discrimination policy if the employer disallows a work-authorized employee from employment, based on the individual’s previously undocumented status. This sort of “dishonest policy” would be investigated by OSC, wherein OSC would focus on whether the policy is consistently applied, without observance of citizenship status or supposed national origin. OSC will also determine if the employee was terminated based on citizenship status discrimination. However, a consistent treatment of a “dishonesty policy” would not be a violation of the anti-discrimination provision.

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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New Processes to Obtain a Visa in India

The US Embassy in India has set-up a new website, www.USTravelDocs.com/in, that will employ a new visa processing system and streamline all visa processing in India. The site will supply supplementary standardization for the system, as well as facilitate monetary payments and scheduling. Applicants will now be able to pay fees using Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) and using mobile phones.

With this new website, applicants are able to make appointments online or with a telephone call. This restructuring will also allow companies and travel agents to book tickets for groups. Applicants can talk to a center agent by phone, email or online chat, and can speak in Hindi, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu. The call center numbers are (91-120) 660-2222 or (91-22) 6720-9400 in India or 1-310-616-5424 in the United States.

However, the appointment process has changed: applicants will have to schedule two appointments. Prior to the visa interview, applicants will have to go to an Office Facilitation Center (OFC) to be photographed and fingerprinted. OFCs are separate from US Consulates and the Embassy in order to increase fluidity in the process and reduce traffic.

This past March, the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) was established by US Mission India to allow certain people to be waived for personal interviews. With IWP and the reformed visa processing system, applicants can fulfill all visa prerequisites without going to a US Embassy or Consulate. With this streamlined system, applicants will be interviewed within 10 days of scheduling an interview.

The Indian US Embassy’s continued efforts to standardize their visa procedures will ultimately benefit applicants, allowing for an easier application process and shorter wait period for obtaining visas.

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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Slow Pace of H1B Adjudications Affects US Businesses & Economy

In mid-September, we had to inform many of our clients, who had filed H1B visas for their employees, that we had not received a response from USCIS; and judging from the published backlogs about these filings (over as many as 17,000 H1B visas), it isn’t likely that we will receive any decisions until the end of the year. Reluctantly, we advised our clients to pay the additional premium processing fee for urgent requirements.

Business and Economic Losses

If the losses from the slow adjudication process are added up, losses for American businesses are also adding up. First, there are the current projects that American businesses have with American client companies, which run the gamut from hospitals, car rental companies and credit card processors; financial and banking companies; retail, hotel and restaurant chains; IBM and Microsoft; and universities. In this day and age, everything is online and mobile. Current contracts are either delayed or postponed, and taxes paid by visa holders to the US and State government coffers are not collected. If delays continue, US businesses are likely to send these operations overseas, enriching foreign tax coffers.

Second, we face a brain drain from American universities. The difficulty for foreign students obtaining a timely US visa forces these students, who have gathered knowledge at our universities, to migrate to Australia, Canada, UK and their home countries where their US-gained knowledge is welcomed. This situation, again, is a loss of millions of dollars to the US economy.

Foreign Students in American Universities

This past year, enrollment of temporary residents in graduate school surged by 7.3%. Temporary residents made up 16.9% of American graduate school enrollment, a figure only growing as foreign governments pay for their citizens’ American education, specifically in technical fields. Foreign students made up a sizable percentage of technical areas: 45.5% of students in US engineering graduate programs, and 42.4% of students in US mathematics and computer science graduate programs, are foreign students. (NYTimes, “Enrollment Drops Again in Graduate Programs”, 9/28/2012).

Recently, some beneficiaries of H1B visas have reported receiving tremendously shortened periods of visa approvals from the consulates, despite being approved for the full period of H1B visa entitlement from USCIS. This re-adjudication contributes to the unfriendly and unwelcoming atmosphere facing H1B applicants and their sponsoring companies.

The tide of demand for US visas ebbs and flows: often, the federal government is not able to support US companies’ efforts to attract the best and brightest to work for us.The wave of hostility generated by our actions should not arrive at a tipping point. We could very well lose what makes up our American identity, and our ability to produce multi-million dollar products like Facebook, iPhones and Google.

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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How Employers can Reduce Audit in PERM Filings for Roving, Telecommuting and Traveling Employees

The tech industry is facing many challenges today, notably denials from the Department of Labor (DOL) based on very little understanding of how the industry works. Most large employers in the sector are not the ‘job shops’ that USCIS fears; and DOL is convinced the tech industry is engaged in fraud of some kind, or is somehow interested in recruiting foreign workers when willing and able US workers are available!

US employers in this sector pay a premium in governmental application costs and legal fees because they are unable to find a suitable worker in the advertised job. In fact, most recruiters I speak to would prefer to hire locally rather than internationally.

Both USCIS and DOL target employers who file for an employee with job duties involving roving, telecommuting or travelling; USCIS has recently issued guidance on roving employees placed at client worksites, in the H-1b visa context. DOL continues to audit and issue denials for roving, travelling or telecommuting positions. Current audits require employers to define employees’ positions as either national or regional roving without a residential requirement, or roving with a residential requirement. Additionally, DOL has expressed concern that these jobs may not be bona fide opportunities for the positions advertised at the intended place of hire; and, in the case of roving employees with no fixed ‘intended area of employment’, the location chosen to advertise the job opportunity and the wage may be artificial and misrepresented by the employer.

Where to Advertise for Roving Employees

In the past few years, DOL has audited and denied applications where the residential address of the employee does not match the location of employment. DOL decided that this position was for a telecommuting employee, a benefit the employer did not disclose in the advertisement for the position and therefore not disclosed to an eligible US applicant, but offered to the beneficiary as a benefit. A PERM application can also be denied based on job advertisements in the incorrect Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The employer advertised the job where the client worksites were located, instead of the MSA where the employer’s headquarters was located.

In Paradigm Infotech, Inc (BALCA, June, 2007), the employer advertised the roving position in Erie, Pennsylvania where the client worksite was located, instead of the company headquarters. To reach the PERM denial, DOL conducted research on the employer. DOL ascertained that the employer’s headquarters was in Columbia, Maryland as confirmed by employer’s tax records and DOL interviews with employees. DOL also performed site visits to the Erie location of the employer’s branch to ascertain that sufficient office space existed, and parking space was available for the number of employees who were supposed to work there, in accordance with employer’s documentation filed with Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA). Based on short term contracts with client companies, inadequate office space at Erie, and payroll records that confirmed that employees worked at different locations, PERM labor certification was denied by DOL and the denial was upheld by BALCA. BALCA reasoned that the employer needed to test the labor market at the place where the alien was working, and since this was a roving employee and that geographical area of the labor market was unknown, the job market to be tested for PERM purposes was located at the employer’s headquarters.

Following Paradigm, employers with large business units away from company headquarters should also advertise at headquarters location. This is confirmed by the Barbara Farmers Memo: ETA Field Memorandum 48-94§10, published by DOL in 1994 and still followed by DOL.

Prevailing Wage Issues

Employers should also file to obtain prevailing wage determinations from DOL in all the intended areas of potential work sites for the foreign worker. Future locations can be determined from itineraries and statement of work signed with the end client.

Employers with International Locations

In August 2012, BALCA upheld that advertisements in the PERM context also include ‘travel requirements’. The employer in M-IL.L.C., filed a PERM for an employee who was required to travel to international locations as part of the job requirement. This fact was listed on the PERM application Form 9089 and the prevailing wage determination, but not listed on the advertisement for the job opening. 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(4) states, “Advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals before filing the Application for Permanent Employment Certification must… indicate the geographic area of employment with enough specificity to apprise applicants of any travel requirements and where applicants will likely have to reside to perform the job opportunity.” The employer’s advertisements did not include the travel requirement. Denial was based on the fact that travel requirements listed on the PERM application and the prevailing wage determination was not matched by the advertisement for the position.

Conclusion

While we cannot with certainty expect every PERM filing with travel requirements to be audited by DOL, we must certainly file like that is a very real possibility. Any filing with the DOL is subject to audit, even if in the past those very same requirements were certified by DOL. The safest course in our uncertain climate is to match information on the prevailing wage with the PERM form, and the employer’s advertisement requirements for the position advertised.

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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