It’s a new year, a new decade, and a new election season – which means big changes are on the horizon for labor and immigration regulations in the U.S. As 2020 ramps up, employers are turning their focus to how they’ll navigate the new immigration legislation.
We’re living in a time of increased immigration enforcement, where visa denials have gone up and employers’ liabilities and risks are bigger than ever. So, how can employers stay ahead of potential business immigration law compliance issues? What protective measures can law firms recommend to reduce their clients’ risks and liabilities?
Here are three focus areas to consider when planning your business immigration compliance strategy.
1. Prepare for investigations
It’s no secret that workplace immigration enforcement has surged under the current administration. To put it in perspective, Homeland Security Investigations opened 6,812 new workplace cases in the 2019 fiscal year, up from 1,701 during fiscal 2016. If you employ foreign nationals, here are a few of the investigations organizations could face.
Employers are responsible for verifying the identity and employment authorization for every person they hire through Form I-9, and there is every indication that I-9 audits will continue to increase. Companies can prepare for potential investigations by being proactive about internal I-9 review.
- Ensure a fully completed, up-to-date Form I-9 exists for every applicable employee
- Create a process for ensuring all technical errors (such as omissions) are corrected
- Practice proper storage of records
- Review your process for tracking immigration status and ensuring re-verification takes place on time
No organization wants to get caught with I-9 non-compliance issues; there are monetary penalties for I-9 compliance violations that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per error. With so much to keep track of when it comes to I-9 forms, consider outsourcing your I-9 compliance to take the workload and liability off your plate.
There are extra considerations to keep in mind for organizations hiring foreign nationals working in H-1B or L-1 status. The Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) could come knocking at the door. The goal of these site visits is to validate the details of petitions filed with USCIS.
The best way to stay ahead of the game when it comes to onsite visits is to prepare employees for potential questioning. Agents may ask about job duties, salary, educational background, and location of employment — all with the goal of verifying the information that was submitted in the initial visa request.
Prepare employees for FDNS site visits by working with them to anticipate the potential questions and make sure they are comfortable speaking about the terms of their employment.
2. Evaluate your support needs
2020 will be a busy year for business immigration law compliance. One of the most proactive ways to get ahead is to ensure your team has the bandwidth to handle the volume of work that will be needed to meet the changing compliance regulations.
Take the time to evaluate the capacity of your internal resources, and identify any gaps where you may need more support. Consider the following options:
Relying on in-house counsel or HR specialists for immigration matters can be complicated. Even if in-house legal teams have the right immigration experience, the large volumes of work during the immigration cap season is often too much for a handful of in-house employees to handle.
Having the right support for high-volume seasons is vital to the efficiency of your immigration legal process; and bringing on paralegals to support may seem helpful in the short-term. However, paralegals are not an effective long-term solution, as there’s a drastic shortage of immigration specialists in the industry. Hiring from a limited pool during the high-volume immigration season also comes with a hefty price tag, if you’re lucky to find one in the first place.
Outsourced Legal Support
Instead of scrambling to find immigration paralegals in high season or paying a large salary for an in-house specialist, consider high quality outsourced legal immigration services. The right support can take the workload and liability away from your team, help you complete everything on time, and save on costly internal resources.
3. Be aware of local, state, federal, and industry-specific laws
Federal-level immigration legislation only scratches the surface of your business’ immigration compliance responsibilities. In fact, many of the new immigration laws taking effect in 2020 are at the state and local level.
For example, the reigns around business immigration laws are tightening in states with the highest rates of unauthorized immigrants. States with the highest rates of unauthorized immigrants, including Arkansas (41%), Nebraska (41%) and North Carolina (39%), enforce the most stringent laws around employee authorization of foreign nationals.
Industry-Specific State Legislature
When it comes to certain industries, the states also have a say. For example, in an attempt to fill labor shortages in areas including health care, education, STEM fields, and others, many states have created individual policy recommendations, passed legislation limiting federal reach, and allotted resources to make it easier for employees of foreign nationals to keep their employees in the workforce.
Get ahead of immigration law compliance by staying up-to-date on local, state, federal, and industry-specific laws; or, partner with a business immigration team that can take the burden off your plate.
When planning your business immigration law compliance strategy, consider leaning on a team of business immigration experts. Combining the latest in legal technology, multi-shore resources and an agile approach that prioritizes security, Exigent supports your organization with business immigration legislation while optimizing your current legal processes.
To learn more, explore our Business Immigration Services.