Business Planning with Changing Immigration Policy
February 15, 2017 | Marina Grabchuk
The new administration is placing a heavy focus on immigration, causing many employers to question how the new changes may impact their business. While the current policy is in a state of flux, there are some key measures businesses can take to help avoid unexpected, and sometimes costly, immigration complications. Although different businesses face different challenges, all businesses benefit from being aware of key immigration issues: international travel restrictions; work-visa sponsorship challenges; and worksite enforcement.
Should My Foreign National Employees Travel Internationally?
Employees who are not U.S. citizens should exercise caution and seek professional legal advice before making the decision to travel abroad. Even workers with valid employment-based visas and green cards could potentially experience problems coming back to the U.S. Individuals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, even those with H-1B visas and green card holders, should be particularly cautious. Although the 90-day travel ban has been placed on hold temporarily, these countries have been identified as warranting extra scrutiny. Employers with non-citizen employees should work with their employees to ensure they are educated travelers and potentially avoid unnecessary travel outside the U.S., even if work-related. Where work travel is required, employers can assist employees to ensure they have all necessary documentation to return home.
Will I Still Be Able to Hire Non-U.S. Citizen Workers?
If employers are in the process of sponsoring a visa for an employee, it is important to understand the potential risks and complications that may arise in the visa application process. Employers who choose to sponsor employee visas may need to be more patient with the process as new measures are put into place. With anticipated changes in enforcement and executive orders, there can be confusion and inconsistency in how consular officers around the world interpret and apply the executive orders to visa applicants. Additionally, the cancellation of the visa interview-waiver program, which provided an option to skip the consular interview and use the drop-box for visa renewals, affects worker visa holders who need to extend their visas. Since the fast-track option no longer exists and all visa applicants must attend an interview, the change likely will cause significant delays in visa application processing and issuance time. Individuals with valid visas also may be subjected to enhanced screening and additional inspection when they enter the U.S. Other changes will result in increased scrutiny and, accordingly, delay for immigration processing in the U.S.
What Should I Do about Potential Site Visits?
Finally, there is some indication that there may be an increase in worksite enforcement and “site visits.” Now is a good time to take preemptive measures in an event of a site inspection or an I-9 audit. Employers should ensure their business is in compliance with the new Form I-9 requirements and that the public access files for the employees in certain visa categories, such as H-1B, are properly maintained and retained.
We continue to watch immigration-related developments closely and identify other potential ways they may impact your business.