By Richard Burke
CEO, Envoy Global
In the headlines, we mostly hear about immigration policy around illegal border crossings and family separation. But a lot of other changes are happening behind the scenes that are making it harder for legal immigrants to enter and stay in the country, as This American Life highlighted in a recent episode.
Of particular note are the changes impacting work visas. Because of this, HR professionals must be more diligent than ever to ensure that all applications are timely and complete and that all documentation is readily available in the event of a workplace audit; even small missteps can lead to visa denials, employer penalties, and even arrests.
Here are two changes to be aware of, along with strategies for increasing the odds of keeping your workplace compliant and your international employees in good legal standing.
Change 1: Increased Workplace Audits for H-1B Visa Holders
Last April, the Trump administration announced that it would take a “more targeted approach” to site visits intended to detect and deter H-1B fraud and abuse.
In the fall, an Inspector General audit of the USCIS Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program found that USCIS had fallen short of its goal for site visits. Given those findings, USCIS doubled its goal for random site visits for FY 2018 (from 10,000 to 20,000). Those visits would be in addition to the new “targeted” audits introduced by the April announcement.
The site visit total for FY 2018 has not yet been published; however, in the absence of a new policy regarding both random and targeted audits, it’s safe to assume site visits will be more likely.
For employers of foreign nationals with H-1B visas, this means it’s important to be prepared at all times for a workplace audit, which involves doing the following:
- Have a plan for workplace audits, including where you store necessary documents, who will lead the officer around, and whether your attorney will be present in person or via phone.
- Educate your foreign national employees about what to expect during an audit.
- Reach out to your lawyer as soon as an officer arrives.
- Verify that the officer is legitimate.
- Take notes to document what happens during the visit: whom the officer talks to, questions asked, etc.
- Assign someone to accompany the officer throughout the audit.