C-suite executives in tech and non-tech companies alike have been frantically calling on their in-house immigration experts in recent weeks, attempting to unpack the array of immigration changes that have made headlines and left companies worried about disruptions, both to their businesses and to their employees’ lives.
Interpreting how new policies will impact business and keeping foreign workers calm has never been this difficult, or this confusing, for U.S. employers. Even if your company is not directly affected by recent immigration changes, one or more vendors you rely on may be facing them, which may ultimately impact your company.
In the current hype and confusion over immigration here are 5 recent initiatives impacting all industries and what you need to be doing about it:
The Recent Elimination of the 3-Week Visa Processing Guidelines.
U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide are free to apply the new administration’s “extreme vetting” to employees of U.S. companies, business visa applicants, students and trainees. Planning for the long absence of more employees waiting for a visa renewal and determining whether they can work remotely during their absence will be critical. Additionally, the start date of new employees and consequently a project, may need to be pushed back significantly as they may not be in the U.S. by the anticipated start date.
The USCIS Increase of Unannounced Visits for Consulting Companies, H-1B Dependent Employers, and New Companies.
Be prepared! You may or may not be a targeted employer, but your vendor may be. Ensure your front desk and security personnel are trained on how to respond to the investigator and on how to contact the person they wish to see, including on-site vendor employees. In order to avoid visa revocations, have your immigration program in order and those in charge trained on how to respond to unannounced visits.
The “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order.
Although changes may not be imminent, the end-result of this executive order could limit your ability or your vendor’s ability to hire H-1B workers. Reforms may result in limiting the H-1B category to the highest skilled workers and/or imposing a minimum six-figure salary for H-1B hires. Furthermore, trade agreements that provide TN visas for Canadians and Mexicans (NAFTA), E-3 visas for Australians and H-1B1 for nationals of Singapore and Chile are being reviewed. This could result in the elimination of some of these trade visa categories. An increase in ICE I-9 Audits and Department of Labor audits is also expected in all industries because of this anti-fraud initiative. A proactive third-party analysis of the company’s Immigration Program, its compliance with all USCIS and DOL regulations, and the potential implications of these changes on business is highly recommended.
The Administration’s Push to Eliminate H-4 Work Permits.
The Department of Homeland Security is reviewing work permits granted to certain spouses of H-1B workers. You may have a critical employee in H-4 status using this program as employment authorization. The company’s immigration specialist needs to identify employees on H-4 work permits, determine if they have an alternate visa option once the permit expires, and stay on top of the ruling to avoid any potential I-9 violations. Last, but not least, management needs to be advised of the potential loss of the H-4 employee and secure a contingency plan.
Partial Reinstatement of The Travel Ban.
The partial reinstatement of the Travel Ban for nationals of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen now exempts employees of U.S. companies or individuals that have already accepted employment with a U.S. company. However, the final determination of whether employees meet this exemption, even those with valid visas, will be made by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the airport or at a border crossing. Consequently, it is critical to ensure the company is providing traveling employees from these countries sufficient evidence of their employment. They will need to satisfy CBP officers of their bona-fide ties to the U.S in order to be allowed entry.
Given the current state of flux in U.S. immigration policies, companies that rely on foreign workers in any capacity need to be all-hands-on-deck right now to minimize business interruptions and disruptions to the lives of valuable employees and their families.
This update is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Each situation is different, could change any time, and should be analyzed by an attorney.