Increase in Employment-Related Immigration Enforcement Activity

Four months into the new President’s tenure, the state of employment-related immigration is beginning to take shape.  In general, and in accordance with the administration’s stated policy, there has been an increase in immigration enforcement activity, and there is expected to be more frequent worksite visits and increased audits of employers.

For example, on April 3, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they would be implementing a new targeted approach to detect and fight fraud and abuse in the H-1B visa program, a program which allows employers to hire skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a specialized field.

While the USCIS will continue conducting random worksite visits, certain employers who have been identified as potentially committing fraud and abuse of the H-1B program are more likely to be “targeted.”  This includes those employers whose basic business information cannot be validated through commercially available data; those employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location; and those employers who have a high ratio of H-1B workers as compared to U.S. workers (so-called “H-1B dependent employers”).  These increased visits will also help the USCIS in determining if employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers and to not displace U.S. workers.

The USCIS has also established an email address dedicated to receiving information about suspected H-1B fraud or abuse, allowing individuals to submit tips regarding any alleged violations.

Similarly, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the entity responsible for the enforcement of Form I-9 requirements and ensuring that workers have proper U.S. work authorization, has announced a general increase in enforcement actions.  There have been more frequent audits, with more voluminous document requests and higher fines.

In light of the more frequent and extensive audits being conducted in the area of immigration, employers would be wise to review their compliance practices to ensure they are complying with the various immigration laws.  This can be done by conducting internal audits, by developing comprehensive I-9 and H-1B policies, procedures and protocols, and by having staff trained in how to stay compliant with the latest rules to reduce or eliminate errors.  It is also important that employers be prepared in the event of a worksite visit, designating certain employees trained to interact with the immigration agents.  We are available to assist you with these issues and to answer any questions you may have.