Articles Posted in US Department of Labor (DOL)

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Now that the government has reopened, there are a few lingering immigration related issues. Today, USCIS issued this advisory concerning work visa applications:

We would like to share the following information on Form I-129 H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B petitions.

If an H-1B, H-2A, or H-2B petitioner submits evidence establishing that the primary reason for failing to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request was due to the government shutdown, USCIS will consider the government shutdown as an extraordinary circumstance and excuse the late filing, if the petitioner meets all other applicable requirements.

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In the world of immigration and citizenship law, our clients deal with many government agencies. My readers know that I like to cite directly to government sources; so, let’s take a look at the contingency plans of various federal agencies in case Congress puts us all over the fiscal cliff into a government shutdown next week. Keep in mind that things are changing by the hour. If ever there is a time for it, should there be a shutdown, patience will certainly be a virtue while our crazy Congress gets its act together. As of this writing today, none of the agencies have posted plain language-speak on their home pages to let the public know what they plan to do. The agency documents cited below have a lot of budget management-speak, and have been sent to the White House. This is my attempt to decipher and summarize them as they could affect our clients. Stay tuned to the news.

US Department of Homeland Security

Based on a September 27, 2013 US Department of Homeland Security contingency plan, here are some ways your immigration or citizenship case may be impacted:

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As part of its efforts to be more transparent and engage the public, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held a stakeholders meeting this week about making changes to the Form I-9 or the Employment Eligibility Verification form. Form I-9 is required to be used by all employers to document the work permission status of new hires. This has been the law since 1986. But, what should be a simple to use one-page form, continues to confound employers who are increasingly being warned, fined or indicted for violations in completing or using the form and/or for “knowingly” hiring or continuing to hire unauthorized workers.

I attended the teleconference and found the meeting to be very interesting for several reasons. USCIS has held a number of public engagement meetings and also posts the minutes or notes from meetings on its website. While USCIS creates the I-9 form that all employers must use to document the work permission status of new hires, including U.S. citizens, it is another agency, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), that conducts audits or raids of employers looking for evidence of satisfactory I-9 record keeping, or evidence of hiring unauthorized workers. ICE is far less transparent, given that it is an investigative agency, while USCIS is a benefits agency.

This particular public engagement meeting was very well attended by universities, employers, attorneys, and community based organizations from around the country. USCIS was most interested to learn from the audience what works and does not work for employers using the I-9 form. This form has been around since 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). It has taken on new importance in recent years as immigration enforcement actions have increasingly focused on employers as the magnets for illegal immigration. The Obama Administration has focused more efforts on penalizing employers than on the unauthorized workers, often using them as witnesses against the employer. But the I-9 verification process continues to be confusing for many employers, particularly as the program is linked to E-Verify, the government’s online database for checking work permission status. E-Verify is not mandatory….yet …..except for federal contractors, and for use by certain employers previously audited. E-Verify is also required in those states that have passed legislation requiring E-Verify for state or local government contracting or where it is mandatory for the entire state. Nonetheless, E-Verify employers must still have their own manual or electronic I-9 verification procedures in addition to using E-Verify. (See an earlier post about a challenge to Arizona’s mandatory E-Verify law in Chamber v. Whiting, “Arizona Cases Set for Argument.”