Government Shutdown Affects Employers with Foreign Workers

We sent an alert to our clients a couple of days ago when we felt that the Federal Government shutdown was imminent. We didn’t really expect it to happen but it did! The shutdown is unfortunately affecting US immigration services, so writing about action to be taken or postponed for pending immigration applications became imperative.

The websites of the US Department of Labor (US DOL) are no longer functional because it is considered a non-essential service. For employers, this means that if there is a current or potential employee who has to start, extend or transfer to a new employer, the employer will not be able to file a labor condition application for an H1B visa. The implication is that no application for the H1B visa can be filed with USCIS because that application has to be supported by a certified labor condition application (LCA). In the past, when there was a prolonged outage of the US DOL website, USCIS allowed employers to file with uncertified LCAs. We hope this happens with this shutdown, if it is prolonged.

For employees whose cases are pending audit on a PERM case; or if a prevailing wage determination or Form 9089 (PERM application) is either to be filed, or has been filed or is pending with the US DOL, no action will be issued by the agency until the shutdown has been terminated.

USCIS is functional because it is a fee-for-service agency. Biometrics collection is used for many immigrant applications, as well as for re-entry permits required for multinational employees who have a green card through employment but are currently stationed overseas. Biometric services for employees are also still being collected.

US Department of State consulates are currently functional, processing visa stamps and interviews. These services are supported by a mix of fees and federal budget allocation: if the shutdown is prolonged, or if there is a budgetary crisis, then there may be a suspension of services at the consulates for both US citizens and non-citizen consular services. The budgetary crisis could impact both employment-based and other categories of visa issuance, including visitor and business visas. If business travelers want to attend or plan to attend meetings and conferences in the US, please plan to obtain a visa while consular services are still available.

The Social Security Administration is open with limited service; issue of Social Security cards has been suspended. Hence, new visa-based employees will be unable to obtain new social security numbers, which could impact I-9 forms. Although collection of social security numbers is optional, if the employer is an E-verify employer, the employer is required to collect a social security number for work authorization verification. Certain federal and state contractors are also mandated to collect this information. To alleviate this problem, the 3-day rule for E-verify is suspended for those cases affected by the shutdown. Employers may not take adverse action against employees because of the employee’s E-verify interim status.

Wage payments to some new non-immigrants may be a problem because of the non-availability of the social security number. New J non-immigrant visa holders who cannot obtain social security numbers should approach their sponsoring agency for direction.

E-verify is unavailable during the shutdown. Consequently, USCIS, which administers the program, will not be issuing non-confirmation letters (TNC), and employers will be unable to verify work authorization of new employees. Current time to process TNCs has been extended; but the obligation to collect, maintain and process Form I-9 continues as an employer mandate.

Border security is an essential service – there will be no shutdown of services at the border, but travelers are expected to face slowdowns in screening and higher security.

US Passport services, which are a fee-for-service program, are not affected by the slowdown. Of course the severity of the impact will depend on the length of the shutdown. We will post updates as they become available.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
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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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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