Tag Archives: USCIS

The Government is Back For Now… Employers Should Address E-Verify Compliance Over the Shutdown Period

Contributed by Sara Zorich, January 29, 2019 

The US Government was shut down for over a month, and the government’s E-Verify system was down from December 22, 2018, to January 27, 2019. During the shutdown, employers who are E-Verify users were unable to enter any of their newly hired employees into the E-Verify system.  But E-Verify users shouldn’t fret.  USCIS is giving you a grace period to catch up.  The Department of Homeland Security and USCIS have updated the E-Verify website to address the shutdown.

The website states: “Now that E-Verify operations have resumed, employers who participate in E-Verify must create an E-Verify case by February 11, 2019 for each employee hired while E-Verify was not available. You must use the hire date from the employee’s Form I-9 when creating the E-Verify case. If the case creation date is more than three days following the date the employee began working for pay, select “Other” from the drop-down list and enter “E-Verify Not Available” as the specific reason.”

If you have an employee who received a Tentative Non-Confirmation (TNC) during the shutdown (or just before) and informs the employer no later than February 11, 2019 that they want to contest, USCIS has indicated that employers should add 10 federal business days to the date on the employee’s “Referral Date Confirmation” notice, and give the employee the revised notice. Federal business days are Monday through Friday and do not include federal holidays. As written, this statement could be interpreted to mean, for instance, that an employee who received a TNC on December 21, 2018, would originally have had until January 4th (8 federal business days) to visit SSA or DHS.  Adding ten more federal business days would only give a new deadline of January 18th (which is still in the past—and during the shutdown). 

With this in mind, we suggest employers watch the USCIS website for further updates because we expect USCIS to correct this instruction. In the interim, if an employee has chosen to contest the TNC and the employee’s deadline to visit SSA or DHS has passed due to the government shutdown, make sure you inform the employee that they should visit SSA or DHS as soon as possible. Do not terminate the employee until you receive a final non-confirmation from E-Verify.

All of the normal E-Verify deadlines apply to employees hired on or after January 28, 2019.

2018 Immigration Updates

Contributed by Sara Zorich, January 16, 2018

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Renewals Resume
As of January 13, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that, due to pending litigation and a federal court order, it is going to resume accepting and processing renewals for DACA recipients including Employment Authorization Documents granting work status.  This only applies to DACA recipients who had previously been granted deferred action status and USCIS is NOT accepting first time DACA applications.

USCIS has indicated the following:

  1. If the person previously received DACA and their DACA expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016, the person may still file a DACA request as a renewal request which includes a request for extension of the person’s work authorization.
  2. If the person previously received DACA and the DACA expired before 9/5/16, the person may file a new initial DACA request including work authorization.

Employers should check the USCIS website for additional information, but this is good news for employers and employees as employees on DACA now have an avenue to once again renew their employment authorization and legal work status.

Temporary Protected Status
On November 20, 2017, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security announced the decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti.  The transition period is for 18 months and the TPS designation will end on 7/22/19.

On January 8, 2018, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced the decision to terminate the TPS designation for El Salvador.  Again, there is an 18 month transition period and the TPS designation will terminate on 9/9/19.

These announcements will eliminate the ability for individuals from Haiti and El Salvador to apply for employment authorization documents and work authorization based on their TPS status.

If a company employs an alien authorized to work, the company must keep track and monitor the date in which an alien’s work authorization expires.  These employees require reverification.  See USCIS Handbook for employers for more information about reverification of current employees.

How Will the End of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrival (DACA) Affect Employers?

Contributed by Sara Zorich, September 14, 2017

On September 5, 2017, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security rescinded the memorandum issued during the Obama administration that had established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, announcing that it will be phased out over the next six months, allowing Congress time to craft a “permanent legislative solution.”

Ending DACA will affect not just the people covered under the program, but also thousands of employers nationwide. A controversial Obama-era policy, DACA has been a program where certain people who came to the United States as minors without documentation, yet met several guidelines, could request consideration of deferred removal proceedings and request authorization to live and work in the United States legally. Currently, the program shields around 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to work legally.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration ServicesU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new guidance on their website as of September 5, 2017 regarding initial DACA requests and DACA renewals. Here are the key points to note:

  • DACA beneficiaries will not be affected until after March 5, 2018—six months from the date of the announcement
  • No new DACA applications will be considered, but applications filed by September 5, 2017 will still be processed
  • Current DACA recipients whose permits and or work authorization expires between now and March 5, 2018, have until October 5, 2017 to apply for renewal of these benefits

In light of this change, employers are recommended to review their Form I-9’s and identify any individual whose work authorization is going to expire on or before March 5, 2018. Employers should notify these employees of the date their work authorization will expire and remind them that the company cannot continue to employ the employee past this expiration date unless the employee is able to provide proof of continued work authorization. To reiterate, any DACA renewals must be filed no later than October 5, 2017 or USCIS will not process them. Read the USCIS announcement for details.

However, some Employment Authorization Document (EAD) categories (other than DACA) have been granted a 180 day automatic extension to the employee’s work authorization deadline. Visit the USCIS website for more information on the eligibility requirements for the Automatic Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Extension. Thus, employers must be careful to follow the applicable guidelines when addressing the proper end date of an employee’s work authorization and reauthorization requirements.

Final Takeaway: Employers must understand that they MAY NOT discriminate and cannot refuse to hire an individual solely because that individual’s employment authorization document will expire in the future.

We anticipate that Congress may now attempt to fast track some type of immigration reform related to those persons that were formerly covered under DACA, but only time will tell.

USCIS Proposes New Form I-9

Contributed by Sara Zorich

The current version of the Form I-9 is set to expire on 3/31/16. In advance of the expiration, USCIS has issued proposed changes to the Form I-9 for public comment. The new version would allow employers to complete the form on their computer with some imbedded prompts assisting them in the completion of the form. This is an attempt to reduce technical errors commonly made on the Form I-9. Employers would still be able to complete the form by hand if they choose to do so.

Some of the proposed changes included are:

  • Electronic checks on certain fields to ensure accuracy
  • Drop down lists for documents and calendars
  • Additional instructions to assist in completing fields
  • Streamlining the certification for foreign nationals
  • Separating the instructions from the form itself

Note, this new proposed Form I-9 is NOT an electronic I-9 as defined by the regulations. Thus, if a company uses this new form on their computer, they would still need to print the form, have the employee sign Section 1 and the employer would sign Section 2 and retain the original form.

The public comment period for the proposed changes ends on January 25, 2016. The proposed regulation and comment link can be found at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=USCIS-2006-0068.

Employers should continue to use Form I-9 version 03/18/13N with expiration date 3/31/16 until a new version of the form is approved. The current version of the form may be found at http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-9.pdf.

Executive Action on Immigration to Affect Millions

Contributed by Jacqueline Lentini McCullough

Did you watch the President address the nation live last week? On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions, including cracking down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritizing deportation of felons (details of which are still unclear), and requiring certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

The initiatives include:

Deferred Action for Parents (DAP). Parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPR’s of any age) who have been continuously present in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, who pass background checks and pay taxes are eligible for deferred action (temporary relief from removal for a specified period of time) for a three year period;

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to be revised to expand the group it encompasses to include young people who came to the U.S. before turning 16 years old, and have been present in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. It will also remove the 31 year old age cap, paving the way for about 270,000 more people to apply. The work authorization permit will also be increased from two to three years;

-Permit Employment Authorization for H-4 Visa Holders. Currently dependents of H-1B visa holders are not permitted to work. Regulations will be finalized in early 2015;

Optional Practical Training. The length of time in OPT for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”) graduates will be expanded, although no set time frame for this increase and associated regulations have been outlined;

Pre-registration for Adjustment of Status. Individuals with an approved employment immigrant petition who are caught in the quota backlogs will be able to pre-register for adjustment of status to obtain the benefits of a pending adjustment. This change is expected to impact approximately 410,000 people;

-I-601A Waivers. Waivers will be expanded to include spouses and children of LPRs;

Modernization and improvement of immigrant and nonimmigrant programs. Details on this are unclear;

-Enhancements to the Naturalization process; and

-U and T Visas. Three more types of offenses will be added to the list of offenses that can be certified by the Department of Labor.

Preliminary estimates show that approximately 4.9 million individuals may be eligible for the initiatives announced by the President, although there is no way of knowing how many individuals will apply. USCIS won’t begin accepting applications until approximately May 2015, and the new protections could be reversed by a new President. The bottom line is that the only certain provisions will have an immediate impact early next year, such as the DAP and DACA changes. Other proposed changes should be considered more along the lines of “Coming Attractions,” because they require regulations to be implemented. Limited details were offered during the President’s address to the nation, and in his subsequent Memoranda of November 21st.  Since the President’s briefing included business employment immigration reform, there is a reasonable expectation for improvements outside of the undocumented community as well.

 

E-Verify Update Regarding 10-Year Record Deletion

Contributed by Sara Zorich

Employers who have been using E-Verify for more than 10 years must be aware that as of January 1, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be deleting any transaction records in the E-Verify system that are more than 10 years old.  As of January 1, 2015, employers will no longer have access in E-Verify to any case they created prior to December 31, 2004.  In order to have a record of the cases that are more than 10 years old, employers must download the new Historic Records Report before the December 31, 2014 deadline.  USCIS is encouraging all employers who were using E-Verify on or before December 31, 2004 to download the Historic Records Report and maintain it with the company’s Form I-9’s.  Employers will be advised each year going forward by USCIS when the annual Historic Records Report is available for download.

Going, Going, Gone! USCIS’ FY 2015 H-1B Cap

Contributed by Jacqueline Lentini McCullough

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 7, 2014 that it had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2015, which begins on October 1, 2014. USCIS also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advance degree exemption. Approximately 172,500 H-1B petitions were received by USCIS during the filing period, which began on April 1, 2014. On April 10, 2014, USCIS completed a computer generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general cap and 20,000 advanced degree cap exemption. For petitions not selected during the lottery, USCIS will return the petitions along with the filing fees. The mad rush for H-1B cap filings highlights the importance of reforms to the legal immigration system to be based on market needs.