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Immigration Updates: ICE Increases I-9 Workplace Audits and USCIS Issues a New Filing Fee Schedule and New E-Verify Guides.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued new reports, fee schedules, and guides that could affect your business operations. More specifically, ICE reports that I-9 audits, fines and penalties hit record-breaking high numbers this fiscal year, the USCIS issued new (largely increased) filing fees for almost all immigration-related applications, and the USCIS published new E-Verify Manuals and Guides.
Increase in ICE I-9 Audits & Penalties
Generally, every employer must verify each employee's identity and employment authorization by inspecting specified documents (ex: passports, greencards, I-94 cards, drivers' licenses, social security cards) and completing an I-9 form within three business days of commencing employment. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who is charged with enforcing the I-9 rules, announced that worksite enforcement of I-9 compliance is one of its top priorities. Accordingly, ICE has greatly increased the number of business site inspections and I-9 audits it has conducted. This past fiscal year, ICE almost doubled the number of I-9 audits it conducted at businesses, and since January, 2009, ICE has imposed approximately $50 million in financial sanctions for I-9 violations. In September, 2010, ICE announced that it fined Abercrombie & Fitch over $1 million for employment verification violations. Given ICE's explicit priorities and activities, it is time to preemptively get I-9 records in order, and an internal I-9 audit is a great way to assess I-9 compliance levels. There are several ways to proactively correct past errors and avoid fines and penalties. We can help conduct the audit, review results of your audit, and/or find ways to correct deficiencies in I-9 compliance.
New Filing Fees Effective November 23rd
The USCIS has adjusted the filing fees for almost all immigration-related applications, including the fees to obtain and extend temporary work visa status (ex: H-1B, L-1, O-1, TN, E-3, etc.) and greencards. A chart showing the new filing fees is attached. The new filing fees are effective November 23, 2010. Generally, the filing fees are increased by a weighted average of 10%, but there is no change for naturalization applications, and the fee is reduced for six categories of applications, including the I-539 application to extend/change nonimmigrant status which is used by dependents of H-1B and L-1 visa holders for example. Although the value of the filing fee change may be minimal in some business' eyes, the effect can be significant. If the correct fee is not submitted on or after November 23rd, the USCIS can reject the petition, and the foreign national may no longer have valid status to live or work in the United States.
New Guidance Regarding E-Verify Use
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's I-9 form to data from U.S Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. Using E-Verify is voluntary for most employers, but it may required if you are a federal contractor or subcontractor or if you operate in a state with a law requiring its use (ex: Arizona and Mississippi). The USCIS has recently issued six new E-Verify manuals and guides. There are new Manuals for Employers, Federal Contractors and Employer Agents. These Manuals largely describe the mechanics of how to register for and technically operate the E-Verify system. They can be accessed through the E-Verify publications posted on www.uscis.gov. The USCIS has also issued a new Supplemental Guidance for Federal Contractors, which is more substantive in nature. It helps determine if you are a federal contractor, if you are subcontractor required to use E-Verify, if you are exempt from the obligations, the timelines to comply, and the verifications options available to your businesses. The USCIS has also issued two Quick Reference Guides, one for Employers and one for Employer Agents. These are primarily mechanical, like the Manuals. These Quick Guides and the Supplemental Guide for Federal Contractors are attached here.
If you have any questions or need additional information regarding this, please contact Berin S. Romagnolo in our Immigration and Employment Groups.
This Alert is provided for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. According to Mass. SJC Rule 3:07, this material may be considered advertising. ©2010 Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP. All rights reserved.