2014 H1B Cap Might Hit in the First Week

Speculation about the H1B visa cap has been all-consuming in the business community. For 2014, USCIS has stated that all 65,000 H1B visas, and 20,000 H1B visas reserved for US Masters degree holders, would be finished in the first 5 days of filing from April 1 (Monday) to April 5 (Friday).

USCIS also stated that it would monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public of the date on which the numerical limit of the H-1B cap had been met, which is called the final receipt date. If USCIS receives more than 85,000 visa application petitions (regular and cap visas, disregarding the carve-outs for Singapore and Chile under Free Trade Agreements signed by the US with those countries), USCIS will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the limit of 85,000 visas.

USCIS will reject petitions that are subject to the cap and are not selected. USCIS will also reject any petitions that are received after the necessary number of petitions needed to meet the cap are filled. The last time USCIS conducted a lottery for the H-1B cap was in April of 2008.

The Consequences

Pronouncements like this have led to a frantic need to file on the first day, so that the cap is not missed. The problem is that this artificial season does not necessarily meet the hiring cycles for US business and employers. In other words, US business employment practices are artificially constrained by the necessity to tailor employment hiring practices to coincide with a start on April 1. Depending on the industry, employers hire throughout the year, varying with the ebbs and flow of business.

The Takeaway

Immigration reform proposed by the 8 Senators has a more realistic view of the business world — i.e. releasing visas as the demand grows, in a stepped up basis. Now that we are talking about the ‘reality’ on the ground for employers and business, could we have a more realistic PERM labor system? I know, if wishes were horses…. But I can dream the immigration dream, can’t I?

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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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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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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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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