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3d Cir. Finds Anti-Illegal-Alien Ordinance Unconstitutional

Posted by Teresa A. CheekOn September 14, 2010In: Cases of Note, E-Verify, Immigration

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In Lozano v. City of Hazelton, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Hazelton, Pennsylvania ordinances regarding illegal aliens were unconstitutional.  The ordinances, which had been enjoined by a federal court before taking effect, were designed to keep illegal aliens out of the town by penalizing employers who employed them and landlords who rented to them.  The court found that the ordinance conflicted with federal immigration laws and therefore violated the Supremacy Clause. The ordinances operated in part through the sanction of suspending the business license of any person or entity who hired a worker not authorized to work in the U.S.

The court explained that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), the federal law that first prohibited the employment of undocumented workers, was carefully designed to minimize the burdens imposed on both employers (who did not want to be involved in the enforcement of federal immigration laws) and on authorized workers, who might erroneously be perceived as illegal aliens and discriminated against. Accordingly, IRCA limited the types of complaints against employers that the government would investigate, the measures that employers would have to take to assure that workers are authorized to work in the U.S., and the workers to which it would apply (IRCA applies to employees only, not to independent contractors). Congress also included an anti-discrimination provision in IRCA to reduce the burden imposed on authorized workers.

Continue reading "3d Cir. Finds Anti-Illegal-Alien Ordinance Unconstitutional" »

USCIS to Accept New H-2B Fiscal Year 2009 Petitions, Beginning Now

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn August 6, 2009In: Immigration

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has announced that it will re-open the filing period for FY 2009 H-2B petitions:

Although on Jan. 7, 2009, USCIS announced it accepted and approved a sufficient number of H-2B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated annual cap of 66,000, the Department of State received far fewer than expected requests for H-2B visas and as a result, has issued only 40,640 H-2B visas for fiscal year 2009 to date. This means that there are approximately 25,000 visas that may go unused, as they have not been granted. Because of the low visa issuance rate, USCIS is reopening the filing period to allow employers to file additional petitions for qualified H-2B temporary foreign nonagricultural workers.

The normal (non-premium processing) adjudication time frame for H-2B petitions is 60 days. USCIS will make visa numbers available to petitions in the order in which the petitions are filed. However, because H-2B petitions (Form I-129) for fiscal year 2009 visas must be received, evaluated, and adjudicated on or before the fiscal year 2009 deadline of Sept. 30, 2009, USCIS cannot guarantee approval of any H-2B petition on or before the Sept. 30, 2009 deadline. Employers therefore are encouraged to file as soon as possible and to request premium processing by filing a Form I-907 and submitting the $1000 premium processing fee, which will allow for expedited adjudication. See http://www.uscis.gov/premiumprocessing.

To qualify for a fiscal year 2009 H-2B cap number, employers must submit the Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker to USCIS with all required documents, including an approved Alien Employment Certification from the U.S. Department of Labor that is valid for the entire employment period stated on the petition. The petitioner must also indicate an employment start date before Oct. 1, 2009.

Petitions received on or after Oct. 1, 2009, and/or requesting a starting date on or after Oct. 1, 2009, will be considered towards the fiscal year 2010 H-2B cap and are subject to all eligibility requirements for fiscal year 2010 H-2B filings, including 8 CFR 214.2(h)(6)(iv)(D), which requires that the start date listed on the petition be the same as the starting date authorized on the temporary labor certification.

The H-2B program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs for which there is a shortage of available U.S. workers. Typically, H-2B workers fill labor needs in occupational areas such as education, construction, health care, landscaping, manufacturing, food service/processing, and resort/hospitality services.

More information about the H-2B visa program is available in the USCIS guide, How Do I Hire a Foreign National for Short-Term Employment in the United States (pdf). 

Employer Alert: New I-9 Form

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn April 6, 2009In: Hiring, Immigration

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The United States Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS), posted this item on Friday:

USCIS Reminds all U.S. Employers of Requirements to Use Revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification

The revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (Rev. 02/02/09), goes into effect today for all U.S. employers. The revision date is printed on the lower right-hand corner of the form.

The interim final rule, published December 17, 2008, in the Federal Register, revised the list of documents acceptable for the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) process. Employers may no longer use previous versions of the Form I-9.

The revised list improves the security and effectiveness of the Form I-9 process. The list specifies that expired documents are no longer acceptable forms of identification or employment authorization. Allowing for expired documents makes it more difficult for employers to verify an employee’s identity and employment authorization and compromises the Form I-9 process.

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If you haven't already, employers should download the new I-9 form today for immediate use.

Employer Alert: New I-9 Form Delayed

Posted by Teresa A. CheekOn February 3, 2009In: Hiring, Immigration

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Employers were mandated to use a revised I-9 form, beginning on February 1, 2009, per the order of the the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).  The I-9 form is the form used to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S.   USCIS logo

USCIS has changed its mind, and has decided to delay implementation of the new I-9 form to allow time to evaluate whether it is the best approach to take. The new effective date will be April 3, 2009. USCIS has also reopened the public comment period for thirty days, so if you have an opinion about the proposed new form that you’d like USCIS to consider, you have until March 4, 2009 to do so.

USCIS to Require Use of New I-9 Form on February 1, 2009

Posted by Teresa A. CheekOn January 10, 2009In: Hiring, Immigration

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U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), will issue a revised I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form.  Employers must use the new form on February 1, 2009.  USCIS issued an Interim Final Rule describing what documents can be used as proof of identity and authorization to work in the United States.

The biggest change under the new rule is the new prohibition on accepting expired documents.  Expired documents will no longer be acceptable proof of the right to work. This means that U.S. Passports and List B identity documents, such as driver’s licenses, may not be used for employment verification purposes if they have expired. In the Interim Rule, the USCIS explains that this measure will help prevent the use of counterfeit documents since current documents are more likely to include security features and up-to-date photographs.

The revised form will also include changes in references to various immigration documents (I-551, I-688, I-688A, I-688B, I-766, I-94, I-94A) to conform to current Department of State and USCIS practices with regard to those documents. There will be two new acceptable List A documents: (1) a machine-readable immigrant visa with a temporary I-551 printed notation, and (2) A passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association Between the United States and the FSM or RMI.

The new form and a revised version of the instruction book for completing the form will be available on the USCIS website by February 1. Employers must use the new form for all new employees and for reverification of current employees beginning on that date. The draft of the new form is attached to the Interim Rule.

Immigration Update: H-2B Visa Applications

Posted by Teresa A. CheekOn July 30, 2008In: Immigration

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Do the immigration laws governing H-2B category visas need to be reformed? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says, "yes."  USCIS logo According to the Chamber, H-2B workers are employed mostly in landscaping, seasonal hospitality, and seasonal construction businesses, as well as in manufacturing, food packaging and processing, fisheries, and retail.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced today that yesterday was the “final receipt date” for applications for new H-2B worker petitions for work start dates before April 1, 2009. H-2B visas are for non-agricultural temporary and seasonal workers. Such workers need not possess any special skills.

Congress imposed a cap of 33,000 workers on the number of petitions that may be granted for the first half of 2009. The USCIS will make a random selection from among the petitions that are subject to the cap that were received before July 29, 2008, and will reject all new applications for workers with requested start dates before April 1, 2009. Petitions that are not among those randomly selected will be returned and the associated fees will be refunded.

The cap has been met for the last two years in a row, which the Chamber says is an indication that the current immigration law needs reform. The cap has not been increased since the law creating the H-2B visa category was enacted in 1990.

Legal Update: New I-9 Form . . . Oh, Never Mind

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn July 28, 2008In: Hiring, Immigration

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") released the new I-9 form in the end of June.  There weren't any changes to the form other than the expiration date.  Why bother, you ask?  Good question.  Initially, the Paperwork Reduction Act required it.  Under the Act, all government forms must carry an expiration date.  And the I-9 expired on June 30, 2008. 

But then, last week, it was announced that the "new" form was being retracted.  So, in case you are now twice as confused, here's the bottom line:  Any I-9 form with a publication date of 06/05/07 or later is acceptable.  Even if the expiration date has passed.  In other words, the expiration dates don't matter (for now, anyway).  But the publication date does. 

You can download the

You can also download it from the USCIS website (uscis.gov). 

The USCIS site also provides an I-9 form in Spanish.

Now, hang in there, this may be a little tricky.  Despite having it linked from its website, the USCIS will not accept the Spanish version. (Unless you live in Puerto Rico). Why bother posting it on the site, you ask?  Again, good question.  The idea is that you can provide any Spanish-speaking employees with the Spanish version of the form for their reference.  But the English version needs to be the one the employer actually retains.

Whew!  Good thing the Paperwork Reduction Act is here to help. 

Senator Ted Kennedy's Workplace Initiatives: Top 5

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn May 21, 2008In: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Immigration, Legislative Update, Wages and Benefits

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After being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, long-time advocate of the American worker, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, will be released from the hospital today.  Kennedy was hospitalized Saturday morning after suffering a seizure at his family's compound at Hyannisport, Massachusetts.  Following the news of his sudden illness, politicians from both parties spoke highly of the Democratic Senator, including both democratic presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. As Washington regulars reflect on Kennedy's contributions during his more than 40 years in public service, U.S. employers may be interested in the initiatives that would have the greatest impact on the American workplace. 

Ted Kennedy

Kennedy's Current Workforce Initiatives

 

Senator Kennedy is a major employee advocate and many of his initiatives are focused on this goal.  This passage from his senatorial website demonstrates Kennedy's perspective:

The minimum wage is at an all-time low, the Family and Medical Leave Act is under attack, and workers are being stripped of their overtime pay, unemployment insurance, and pensions. The United States must recommit itself to supporting working families to ensure a strong and prosperous America for future generations.

Specifically, Kennedy seeks to achieve these objectives through various proposals.  Here are five of Kennedy's proposals that would have the greatest impact on employers. 

1.   Union Rights

Senator Kennedy is a long-time union supporter.  On the agenda just this month was the Public Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which focuses on collective bargaining rights for public safety employees.  Currently, 26 states permit public employees to form bargaining unions.  The Cooperation Act would require the other 24 states to do the same. 

2.   Minimum Wage

Kennedy is one of the Senate's most vocal advocates for an increased federal minimum wage. This subject is a sensitive one for most U.S. employers.  If the national minimum wage did increase, it would likely trigger at least some changes in the way employers look at immigration reform, which is also on the Senator's list of proposals.

3.   Immigration Reform:  Illegal Immigrants

Another one of Senator Kennedy's major initiatives is targeting immigration.  Last year, immigration-reform legislation was passed but, according to Kennedy, fell short of achieving the goals it was intended to address. Kennedy has continued to advocate for revisions to the legislation, focusing on these main points:

  1. Tougher Border Enforcement.  These changes would include border-enforcement patrols double the current size.  It would also target illegal immigrants currently in the U.S.  Employers who hire illegal workers would be subject to increased enforcement, as well.
  2. Earned Legalization.  This initiative would target illegal aliens already in the U.S., giving them opportunities to earn citizenship.  This effort is based on the argument that massive deportation would be seriously disruptive to communities and business in the States.

4.  Immigration Reform:  The Future for Foreign Workers

Temporary-Worker Program.  As many employers are fully aware, getting specialty workers from other countries is a daunting task.  This third prong of Senator Kennedy's proposal is forward looking.  In the future,temporary employees from abroad would be given easier access to come to the U.S. for temporary work with the goal of working towards permanent employment and citizenship. 

5.  IDEA Reform

Another initiative on Kennedy's agenda has been increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The Senator's position is that, although the goals and purposes of the IDEA are on-track, the lack of federal funding has prevented it from being fully utilized by the states.

Information about these and other initiatives can be found on the Senator's official website.

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Raids Workplaces, Making Numerous Arrests

Posted by Teresa A. CheekOn April 17, 2008In: Immigration, Newsworthy

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U.S. ICE raids Poultry Plants, Doughnut Factory, Mexican Restaurants and Arrests Managers and Hundreds of Workers

I’ve previously posted about the issue of undocumented workers and talked about it a bit at our Annual Employment Law Seminar yesterday, so the AP story in today’s Wilmington News Journal is especially timely. The article
describes the latest raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security on workplaces with large numbers of illegal alien employees. The raids included arrests of an owner and 10 managers of one company.

As I said yesterday, one reason that business owners and managers should be paying close attention to this issue is to stay out of jail!

ICE arrested 300 workers for identity theft, document fraud and immigration violations at Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plants in five states. The company itself reported identity theft issues to ICE and cooperated in the enforcement action. It uses the E-Verify online database to check the documentation of new employees, and fires employees who do not correct documentation problems. But, as a company spokesperson pointed out, that doesn’t help with cases of outright identity theft. This is at least the fourth round of raids and arrests on poultry plants since 2005.

No charges were filed against the company itself. On the other hand, yesterday’s arrests included the owner and 10 managers of a chain of Mexican restaurants located in four states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia), who were charged with employing illegal immigrants. Forty-five restaurant workers were also arrested on immigration charges.

30 people were arrested in a raid of a Houston doughnut factory. Many of the individuals who were arrested were housed in a company dormitory. No word yet on whether owners or managers of the factory will face criminal prosecution.

The article concluded with a report that a grand jury in Atlanta had indicted 10 people from employment agencies there for placing illegal aliens at locations in six states. The agencies were charged with developing a network to “recruit and exploit” illegal workers.

My previous posts on this topic include, "The Safe-Harbor Rule for No-Match Letters," Parts 1, 2, and 3, as well as "Get the Jump on No-Match Letters and Suspicious Documents." Those articles provide you with comprehensive explanations of what No-Match Letters are and how they can impact your business.

The moral of this story is that employers must be proactive in protecting themselves from this type of situation.

If you know or suspect that your workers are using false documents, don’t just sit on your hands and hope for the best. You should sign up for and start using E-Verify for new hires, and use the Social Security Number Verification System (SSNVS) provided by the Social Security Administration to find out the extent to which your current workers’ social security numbers and names do not match Social Security Administration records. Develop a policy for dealing with this issue, including terminating all employees (whether they "appear" to be illegal immigrants or not) who fail to straighten out no-match issues within a reasonable time.

Employers must tread carefully when creating a policy to avoid discrimination issues. Contact me if you’d like some help.

USCIS Update on H-1B Petitions: Random Selection Process

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn April 14, 2008In: Immigration

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today conducted the computer-generated random selection processes on H-1B petitions, to select which H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2009 (FY 2009) would continue to full adjudication. If approved these H-1B petitions will be eligible to receive an H-1B visa number.

USCIS conducted two random selections, first on petitions qualifying for the 20,000 "master's or higher degree" (advanced degree) exemption, and second on the remaining advance degree petitions together with the general H-1B pool of petitions, for the 65,000 cap.

The approximately 163,000 petitions received in the first five days of the eligible filing period for FY 2009 (April 1 through April 7, 2008) were labeled with unique numerical identifiers. USCIS has notified the appropriate service centers which numerical identifiers have been randomly selected, so each center may continue with final processing of the petitions associated with those numerical identifiers.

Petitioners whose properly filed petitions have been selected for full adjudication should receive a receipt notice dated no later than June 2, 2008. USCIS will return unselected petitions with the fee(s) to petitioners or their authorized representatives. As previously announced, duplicate filings will be returned without the fee. The total adjudication process is expected to take approximately eight to ten weeks.

For cases selected through the random selection process and initially filed for premium processing, the 15-day premium processing period begins today (April 14), the day of the random selection process.

USCIS has "wait-listed" some H-1B petitions, meaning they may possibly replace petitions chosen to receive an FY-2009 cap number, but that subsequently are denied, withdrawn, or otherwise found ineligible. USCIS will retain these petitions until a decision is made whether they will replace a previously selected petition. USCIS will send a letter to the wait list petitioners to inform them of their status.

USCIS expects that for each of these wait-listed petitions, it will either issue a receipt notice or return the petition with fees within six to eight weeks.

~From USCIS Press Release

USCIS Releases Preliminary Number of FY 2009 H-1B Cap Filings

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn April 10, 2008In: Immigration

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For background about the quickly developing H-1B events, see our prior posts here and here.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today made a preliminary estimate that approximately 163,000 H-1B petitions were received during the filing period. More than 31,000 were for the advanced-degree category.

The lottery-based selection process will begin next week with the selection of the 20,000 petitions under the advanced degree exemption. Those petitions not selected from the advanced-degree category will join the random selection process for the cap--subject to the 65,000 limit.

H-1B Cap Reached After Just 7 Days

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn April 9, 2008In: Immigration

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As expected, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced yesterday that it has received enough H-1B petitions, which are issued to temporary workers, to meet the cap for fiscal year 2009. The cap was reached just one week after the application period opened. The 20,000 H-1B cap for holders of advanced degrees has also been reached.

Before running the random selection process, USCIS will complete initial data entry for all filings received during the filing period ending on April 7, 2008. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the precise day on which it will conduct the random selection process. USCIS will reject, and return filing fees for all cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, unless found to be a duplicate. USCIS will handle duplicate filings in accordance with the interim final rule published on March 24, 2008 in the Federal Register.


The agency will conduct the selection process for “advanced degree” exemption petitions first. All “advanced degree” petitions not selected will be part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Posted by Justia AdminOn April 9, 2008In: Immigration

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H-1B Visa Applicants Catch a 5-Day Break

Posted by Michael P. StaffordOn April 4, 2008In: Immigration

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced yesterday that all H-1B temporary worker petitions filed between April 1, 2008 and April 7, 2008 "will be subject to a random selection process." Of course, petitions that are not selected and approved through this process will be returned, along with the accompanying filing fees.

USCIS only began accepting H-1B petitions on April 1, 2008 for new employment in fiscal year 2009, which begins on October 1, 2008. The announcement of the random selection process means that employers who were not able to submit their H-1B petition by April 1st still have a chance to secure employment authorization, provided the petitions are submitted by April 7.

It's important to remember that not all H-1B petitions are subject the visa cap. For example, petitions renewing H-1B status, or "porting" a worker currently on an H-1B from one employer to another are, in most instances, not subject to the cap. However, the H-1B visa cap does have a tremendous impact on your ability as an employer to hire foreign students or persons presently in foreign countries for employment in the united States. As such, it should be considered in any recruitment conducted by your organization.

H-1B Filing Date For FY2009 Is Approaching

Posted by Michael P. StaffordOn March 25, 2008In: Immigration

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On April 1, 2008, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will begin accepting petitions from employers for H-1B visas for fiscal year 2009. Unfortunately for employers, the H-1B visa category has a yearly maximum of merely 65,000 visas. This limit is also known as the H-1B cap.

Last spring, the H-1B cap was reached on the very first day of filings. USCIS will not accept any additional petitions after the cap is reached. Therefore, employers seeking visas should move quickly to complete and submit form I-129 and the necessary supporting paperwork. (Click here for the forms page on the USICS website)

New Rule on the Use of Multiple Petitions
As part of the gear-up for April 1, USCIS published an interim rule in the Federal Register dealing with the number of petitions that can be filed per employee. The rule was issued on March 19, 2008 and prohibits employers from filing multiple H-1B petitions for the same employee.

Do You Feel Lucky
You might need some luck. The interim rule sets out the process for how petitions that are received after the cap has been hit. USCIS will use a lottery system. A random selection process will determine that it has received enough petitions to reach the cap within the first five business days.