By Dawn Lurie, Mahsa Aliaskari, and Jason Burritt

Seyfarth Synopsis: USCIS released a revised version of Form I-9 that employers must use to verify identity and employment authorization of new hires effective September 18, 2017. There are no substantive changes from the current Form I-9, which USCIS issued in November 2016 and considered a major overhaul.  Employers are urged to utilize the roll out of the new Form I-9 as an opportunity to offer I-9, E-Verify and Antidiscrimination training, to assess their state of immigration compliance and to address necessary remediation.  

As expected, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17.  Employers can use this new Form I-9 or continue using the  Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 N through September 17.  As of September 18, employers may only use the new form with a revision date of 07/17/17 N; no other versions will be acceptable.  The issuance of the new form does not necessitate employers  “redoing” previously completed Form I-9s, this is going forward only.

What’s New?

In the Form I-9 instructions:

  • Updated the name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) to Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER). Given the lack of any true substantive updates, it appears this name change is the main reason for the form update.
  • Removed “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

In the List of Acceptable Documents:

  • Added the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) to List C and made it easy to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Sections 2 and 3 (in the dynamic Form I-9) and to identify it in E-Verify.
  • Combined the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350, and Form FS-240) into selection C #2 in List C.
  • Renumbered all List C documents except the Social Security card into an easier format.

In the new M-274, Handbook for Employers:

  • USCIS reflected these changes and endeavored to simplify the format.

What’s the Same?

No changes to storage – which means that employers may still keep Form I-9s in a single format or a combination of formats, such as paper, microfilm or microfiche, or electronic.  For paper I-9s, we continue to recommend a three “binder system” consisting of Active, Reverifications and Terminated I-9s.  Employer should keep all of the forms separate from personnel folders and safeguarded due to privacy concerns.

For electronic users, this version’s updates should not be as difficult as the one released in November of 2016.  However, it is important to note that keeping up with version changes, as well as USCIS directives on how to record certain status updates or other bits and pieces of information,  is clearly an issue for some Electronic I-9 vendors.  For those employers considering electronic systems, or already using an electronic I-9, it is critical to conduct due diligence to ensure that the product complies with the regulations and guidance.  Not all systems meet the electronic I-9 regulations, and the mere fact a large vendor sells the product does not necessarily render the product compliant.  We expect that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will begin to develop and showcase an expertise in this area in the near future.

No changes to retention – which means that employers should retain all Form I-9’s for active employees as well as all Form I-9’s for terminated employees for three years from the date of hire or one year from the date of termination, whichever is later.

No relief for employers with remote workforces – which means that the person who completes Section 2 must see the new hire in person, the original documents presented for Section 2, and record the documents in Section 2.  No Skype, no Facetime, no WhatsApp, no Instagraming, no scanning and no faxing.

What Should We Do Now?

The 60 day transition period for employers and electronic I-9 vendors provided by the government should be used for more than deprecating the old Form and introducing the 7/17/17 version before September 18, 2017.  In fact, we recommend that companies immediately begin to use the new Form and notify their HR and other staff of the change.  This is an excellent opportunity to also offer I-9, antidiscrimination and E-Verify related trainings as well as to review immigration related policies and handbooks (or to start thinking about developing them).  Given the focus on compliance by the new administration, immigration related efforts should prove time and money well spent.  There is speculation that increased worksite enforcement, greater scrutiny and less tolerance for companies with I-9 related issues is on the horizon.  Now is the time to schedule experienced immigration compliance counsel for an on-site proactive I-9 review, including access to those that own the I-9 “process” on the ground.  This review should include observations focusing on the implementation of well-intended standard operating procedures.  Site visits and /or direct discussions are critical to assessing and identifying potential I-9 related  liabilities.  The chance to remediate on your own timeline, and not that of the government, is priceless; proactive remediation is key.

Interested in an immigration compliance assessment?  Contact the authors or your relationship partner at Seyfarth.

Shortly before its summer recess, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments on the Trump administration’s revised travel ban against nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The hearing is expected to take place this fall.

Further, the Court has reinstated the travel ban for the six countries, but only insofar as it relates to foreign nationals who lack a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity. Examples of individuals who do possess a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity include students enrolled at U.S. universities and employees of U.S. companies.  Conversely, foreign nationals from the affected countries wishing to visit solely for tourism may encounter significant challenges entering the U.S.

This ruling will not impact U.S. employers that employ foreign nationals from any of the affected countries. U.S. employers may continue to sponsor their employees for employment-based visa petitions, and employees may continue to apply for work visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. However, all foreign nationals from these countries should nevertheless exercise caution when travelling to the U.S., as they can expect to face lengthy delays and questioning at the border as part of the administration’s ongoing “extreme vetting” measures.

Seyfarth Shaw is monitoring the developments closely, and will publish updated information accordingly.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) has launched a Global Skills Strategy to facilitate the entry of skilled workers to Canada, which is effective immediately. The Strategy focuses on a two-week processing standard for certain Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”)-exempt work permit applications and two brand new work permit exemptions, as part of Canada’s Global Skills Strategy.

Two-Week Work Permit Processing Standard

Certain LMIA-exempt work permit applications made outside of Canada at a Canadian Consulate are now eligible for expedited two-week processing, including LMIA-exempt work permit applications for employees performing work at Skill Level 0 or A of the National Occupational Classification (“NOC”). Therefore, NAFTA Professionals and Intra-company Transferees in high-skilled occupations, such as IT professionals, Management Consultants and senior managers, can benefit from this new processing standard. Historically, and for those not eligible for the new two-week standard, it would typically take about ten weeks at the Consulate General of Canada in New York.

In addition, corresponding applications for any accompanying family members, including open work permits for spouses and study permits for dependents, are eligible for two-week processing. Applications made inside Canada are not eligible for this new, expedited two-week processing.

Please note there is no additional premium processing fee for applications eligible for expedited two-week processing.

Single-Entry Short-Term Work Permit Exemption for High Skilled Workers

Workers with a job offer for a position under NOC Skill Level 0 or A are now eligible for a work permit exemption of up to 15 consecutive calendar days every six (6) months, or up to 30 consecutive calendar days every 12 months. This means that workers who qualify for this exemption may work in Canada within these timeframes without first obtaining a work permit. Individuals must apply for this exemption from outside of Canada or at a port of entry. This exemption is not available for applicants submitting applications from within Canada.

Continue Reading Canada Launches Global Skills Strategy to Fast-Track Short-Term Entry of High-Skilled Workers

As part of the Trump Administration’s extreme vetting efforts, certain visa applicants will now be required to complete a rigorous supplemental questionnaire prior to visa issuance. The information requested in the new, supplemental questionnaire is extensive, and includes the applicant’s full travel history for the past 15 years, including locations visited, dates, and source of funds for the visit; all passport numbers; names and dates of birth of all siblings, children, and spouses/partners; complete address and dates of residence for the past 15 years; employment history for the past 15 years; and all social media handles, phone numbers and email addresses for the past five years.

The supplemental questionnaire will not be required of all visa applicants. As part of the visa application interview and screening process, Visa Officers will decide when the individual visa applicant’s background warrants additional security checks. Previous travel by the visa applicant to areas controlled by terrorist groups is expected to make it more likely that the supplemental questionnaire will be requested. The U.S. Department of State estimates that approximately 65,000 people (less than 1% of 13 million visa applicants worldwide) may be requested to complete the supplemental questionnaire each year.

Continue Reading Extreme Vetting Measures To Include Questionnaires Asking for Detailed Travel History and Social Media Information

The order in question is the Trump Administration’s revised Executive Order of March 6, 2017 (“revised EO”). The revised EO would have temporarily restricted certain foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States for a period of 90 days. The revised EO sought to resolve constitutional issues and ambiguities related to the initial Executive Order signed on January 27, 2017.

In early May 2017, a 13-judge panel of the 4th Circuit heard arguments over the revised EO and on May 25, 2017, the court issued its decision to uphold the preliminary injunction. Writing on behalf of the majority, Chief Judge Roger Gregory stated that the travel ban “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”  The judges ruled 10-3 to affirm in substantial part the earlier decisions that had blocked the ban, citing the violation of the First Amendment as authority to decline reinstatement of the travel ban.  The court rejected the Trump Administration’s argument that the travel ban was a matter of national security.

The Trump Administration can seek Supreme Court review of the Fourth Court decision. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, arguments would not commence until the Fall 2017 term.

At a program held today at Seyfarth Shaw’s offices in Chicago, partners Jim King and Leon Rodriguez discussed rapidly developing changes in business immigration in the first 100 days of the Trump administration.  King serves as co-chair of the Business Immigration Group and Rodriguez is the most recent director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

King and Rodriguez identified changes flowing from a series of executive orders issued by President Trump since inauguration which direct changes in areas including arrival of foreign travelers in the United States, screening of visa applicants and immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States.  King and Rodriguez also discussed possible policy changes that could operate to change and possibly restrict the availability of employment-based visas to the United States.

Continue Reading SEYFARTH BUSINESS IMMIGRATION GROUP PARTNERS JIM KING AND LEON RODRIGUEZ DISCUSS IMMIGRATION TRENDS BEFORE CHICAGO AREA BUSINESS LEADERS

Seyfarth Synopsis: If Congress fails to pass a funding bill by midnight on Friday, April 28, resulting in a federal government shutdown, it would trigger numerous immigration-related ripple effects on employers, both large and small. The federal government, through its various agencies, plays a key role in authorizing and regulating the employment of foreign citizens in the United States. Employers should be aware of how the federal government shutdown could affect their ability to hire, verify and maintain the status of foreign national employees.

Background

A federal government shutdown could begin at midnight on Friday, April 28 if Congress fails to pass a funding bill. This means that, effective Monday, May 1, only “essential” government workers would report to work until Congress passes a spending bill.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS would be minimally impacted because it is largely a user-fee funded service.  The vast majority of USCIS workers would continue to report to work during a shutdown. This means USCIS would continue to process applications and petitions for immigration benefits, with some processing delays possible. As explained below, however, petitions for which a Department of Labor (DOL) certification is required — such as the H-1B that requires a Labor Condition Application (LCA) -­may be adversely affected. USCIS has not yet announced whether it would temporarily accept extensions without DOL-certified LCAs, although historically USCIS has not.

E-Verify, USCIS’ free, internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States, would be inaccessible during the shutdown. However employers are reminded that they must continue to complete I-9 forms in compliance with the law and when E-Verify becomes available, create cases in the E-Verify system. During a prior shutdown, USCIS  issued guidance suspending the “three day rule”  for any case affected by the shutdown.  Historically employees caught in the Tentative Non-Confirmations (TNCs) process were provided an extended time period to resolve the issue.

Again, employees would still be required to complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 on or before the first day of employment and employers would still need to complete Section 2 of the Form I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee begins working for pay.

Other components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) are expected to retain most of their essential staff. CBP has not yet indicated whether it would process immigration applications at the border, such as initial TN and Blanket L applications for Canadian nationals, but it is expected that these adjudications would continue.

Department of Labor

Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) employees, who fall under the umbrella of DOL, are considered non-essential and would be placed in furlough status during the government shutdown. OFLC would neither accept nor process any applications or related materials, including LCAs, applications for a prevailing wage determination, applications for temporary employment certification, PERM audit responses or applications for permanent employment certification (.e.g PERM applications).   OFLC’s web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System, would become static and unable to process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts. Employers with concerns about these deadline-specific functions should consult an immigration attorney with questions about proper maintenance of status during these uncertain times.

Department of State (DOS)

Visa issuance should continue, at least temporarily.  Domestic and overseas Consular operations should remain fully operational as long as sufficient fees exist to support operations. However, if a passport agency is located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, that facility may become unsupported. The continuance of consular operations in such instances would be treated on a case-by-case basis by the Under Secretary for Management.

Department of Justice (DOJ)

DOJ trial attorneys and immigration judges should conduct removal (deportation proceedings) only for individuals in federal custody at least for a short period of time. All other cases would likely be suspended during the shutdown. Similarly, furloughed would be attorneys and staff within the Immigrant and Employee Rights section of DOJ charged with accepting and investigating charges of workplace discrimination arising under the immigration laws.

Seyfarth Synopsis: The EO orders the Departments of State, Justice, Labor, and Homeland Security to propose new rules and issue new guidance to “protect the interests of U.S. workers” and “promote the functioning of the H-1B visa program.”

On Tuesday, April 18, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) instructing the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to propose new rules and issue new guidance “as soon as practicable and consistent with applicable law” to “protect the interests of U.S. workers,” within the administration of the U.S. immigration system. Moreover, the EO instructs the agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid” foreign nationals.

The EO neither creates any specific new requirements for employers nor directs the affected agencies to take any action other than prepare substantive proposals at a future uncertain date. According to statements made by the President and Senior Administration Officials, the EO aims to dismantle the computer generated H-1B visa lottery system and the current four-tiered prevailing wage system as well as ferreting out fraud and abuse within the existing H-1B program.  Implementation of such recommendations would require congressional action.

Seyfarth Shaw will continue to closely monitor the Departments reactions to the EO, and we will provide updates as developments occur.

Seyfarth Synopsis: USCIS completes the lottery process and receives 199,000 H-1B cap petitions.

On April 17, 2017, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it received 199,000 H-1B petitions to meet both the Master’s and regular H-1B quotas (or “caps”) for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins on October 1, 2017.  This means that USCIS received more than double the number of available H-1B petitions in the first week of filing, and that more than 20,000 of these petitions were filed under the Master’s cap.  However, the number of petitions decreased this year, down from more than 236,000 petitions filed for Fiscal Year 2017.

In addition, USCIS announced that they completed a computer-generated random selection process — the lottery — for all cap-subject filings received from Monday, April 3 through Friday, April 7, 2017 to determine which filings to adjudicate.  USCIS first conducted the lottery process for H-1B petitions subject to the Master’s cap, which sets aside 20,000 H-1B visas for holders of U.S. Master’s degrees or higher degrees.  Any Master’s cap petitions not selected in the Master’s lottery were eligible for selection in the regular H-1B lottery, effectively providing two opportunities for an H-1B visa.  USCIS will now begin the process of sending Receipt Notices for petitions selected in the lottery while rejecting and returning petitions, together with the associated filing fees, that were not selected in the lottery.

For additional background information on the H-1B visa program and the cap, please see our previous One Minute Memo titled, “H-1B Work Permit Filings: Will You Beat the Cap?”

Seyfarth Synopsis: As the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the administration generally, signals increases in immigration enforcement activity, businesses are advised to implement clear protocols for the conduct of key personnel in the event of a visit by a federal officer, particularly Special Agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).   This guidance identifies the likely purposes of an ICE visit and sets forth critical steps for key personnel should such a visit occur.  Businesses are advised to work with legal counsel to tailor this general guidance to their specific industry and business processes.

In light of the Trump Administration’s promises of increased immigration enforcement, employers and employees are growing more concerned about the prospect of government worksite visits either to effectuate arrests or to conduct investigations and audits.  To be clear, the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Immigration and Customs Enforcement  (“ICE”) agency has clarified that there has been no directive to initiate worksite enforcement (aka raids) against employers. Notwithstanding, it does appear that recent ICE arrests have swept not only individuals either alleged to have committed a crime or for whom an immigration warrant is outstanding, but also others accompanying the intended arrestee who are found to lack legal status in the U.S.

In addition to arrests, other investigative and audit activity looms on the horizon. Chatter continues about a possible increase in Form I-9 audits by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Unit (HSI), and similar activity by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fraud Detection National Security Unit [1] as well as it’s E-Verify Monitoring and Compliance branch [2]. Additionally, the Department of Justice’s newly named Employee and Immigrant Rights Office (legacy Office of Special Counsel), will continue to pursue investigations into citizenship, national origin discrimination and document abuse matters. This Alert focuses on a visit by the folks at HSI, a separate Alert will be focused on USCIS site visits and investigative visits by other agencies.

Continue Reading Quick Guidance: What To Do In The Event of a Visit By The DHS-ICE Agents