ICE Flexibility on I-9 Rules Extended for Another 30 Days

On March 20, as we previously reported, DHS announced that it would allow inspection of I-9 Section 2 documents remotely via video link, fax, or email due to physical proximity precautions related to COVID-19.  The original announcement was valid for 60 days only, but was extended for 30 days until June 18.  Due to continued precautions related to COVID-19, DHS has further extended this flexibility for another 30 days until July 19.

If you have any questions, contact your Graham Adair representative.

DHS Extends Flexibility in I-9 Verifications for 30 days

On March 20th, DHS deferred the physical examination requirement of work authorization documents for Form I-9.  This allowed employers to inspect Section 2 documents via video link, fax, or email, as long as specific notation is entered in the “Additional Information” field on Section 2.  You can find our news alert on the initial guidance here.

This flexibility was scheduled to end on May 19th. However, due to continued precautions related to COVID-19, DHS extended this flexibility for another 30 days or until June 18th.

If you have any questions on how to complete the Form I-9 during these times, please contact your Graham Adair representative.

Flexibility in I-9 Verifications during COVID-19 Shutdown

The Department of Homeland Security announced that it will defer the physical presence requirements associated with Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9).  As employers and employees observe social distancing precautions, employers can now inspect Section 2 documents remotely via video link, fax or email, etc.  However, please note the following important steps:

 

  • Employers must view Section 2 documents, even if remotely, within 3 business days of the start of employment;
  • Documents submitted via email/fax/etc. must be retained;
  • Once physical examination is conducted:
    • Employers should enter “COVID-19” in the “Additional Information” box on Section 2;
    • Employers should add “Documents physical examined [INSERT DATE]” in the “Additional Information” field on Section 2.
    • The explanation for the delay should also be added on a memo attached to the employee’s I-9 file.
    • Once normal operations resume, employees must present the original documents used during remote verification within 3 business days.  Employers should add the date in which in-person verification took place in the “Additional Information” field on Section 2.

 

Employers may implement the above provisions for a period of 60 days from March 20, 2020 OR within 3 business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first.

 

The above rules only apply to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely.  If employees are physically present at a work location, normal I-9 verification rules apply.

If you have any questions regarding I-9 compliance, please contact your Graham Adair representative.

USCIS To Accept Reproduced Signatures During COVID-19 National Emergency

For petitions filed on March 21, 2020 and beyond, USCIS will begin accepting reproduced original signatures on forms and documents, including Form I-129. A document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy is of an original document containing an original handwritten signature. USCIS will not accept signatures created by a typewriter, word processor, stamp, auto-pen, or similar device. The signatory must have authority to sign on behalf of the petitioning entity.

 

Petitioners or applicants who submit an electronically reproduced original signature must keep copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature. At their discretion, USCIS may request the original documents at any time. Failure to produce the original document can negatively impact the application.

 

If you have any questions, please contact your Graham Adair representative.

I-9 Compliance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

To comply with the social distancing guidelines to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, more employees are working from home. Despite this change, it’s important for HR professionals to help make sure their company stays compliant with employment verification and related requirements – which have not been relaxed (at this time) by the federal government.

 

In fact, there is language on USCIS’s  Special Situations webpage that states, “All requirements for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, completion and E- Verify remain in place.”

 

Here are 9 of the most important issues and questions U.S. HR departments may have regarding I-9 employees:

 

  1. Has USCIS announced any suspension of Form I-9 or E-Verify requirements?

No. As of this date, the Form I-9 (and E-Verify, if applicable) must still be completed following the existing requirements.

 

  1. What are viable options for completing Form I-9 in remote work scenarios?

Section 1 of the Form I-9 is completed by the employee. Employers should provide the new hire with the Form I-9 and the instructions to complete Section 1 on or before the date of hire. Despite the challenges of remote employment, the employer is still legally required to complete Section 2 of the I-9 within three business days of hire (or on the first day of work for pay if the duration of employment will be three days or less). Re-verification is also required to be completed timely (to ensure that the Form I-9 reflects employment authorization covering every day of employment).

 

One strategy for compliance is to authorize an agent, also referred to as an “authorized representative,” to act on the employer’s behalf to complete Section 2 or re-verify employment authorization. To document that the agent is acting on the employer’s behalf, the best practice is to send clear written instructions for the agent performing this service. To verify the agent is acting appropriately, many employers will have someone on the phone or present via webinar to observe the Form I-9 process. Keep in mind the agent is acting on the employer’s behalf. Therefore, any mistakes made by the agent will be attributed to the employer.

 

The process of verifying original documents must occur in-person. Make sure whoever is tasked with the verifying is following current CDC guidance relating to reduction of the risk of virus transmission.

 

  1. To comply with social distancing recommendations, can a family member already in the household act as a 3rd party?

Yes, but it’s not an ideal situation. If, due to the employee having to self-isolate and/or quarantine, a family member or health care provider acts as the agent, then the employer needs to make sure Section 2 of the Form I-9 has been completed correctly. The employer should review the Form I-9 as soon as possible and take any required corrective action (clearly noting when changes were made and by whom on the face of the document) as quickly as possible.

 

It may be wiser to instead wait to complete Section 2 of the form until the employee is in the office and able to meet with the employer in-person to complete the form. Opting to have a late-completed form for the sake of having more control of verifying that the documents presented appear to be genuine and relate to the employee may pay off in the end.

 

  1. If I cannot find anyone to verify a remotely hired employee, should I verify the documents through Skype or Zoom or some other video communication?

No. As for now, the law still requires physical inspection of documents for I-9 purposes.

 

  1. If we normally use an electronic I-9 system, how should remote I-9s be handled?

It is perfectly fine to maintain the I-9 electronically, providing doing so complies with the applicable regulations for electronic I-9 retention. But remember: the use of electronic on-boarding systems does not excuse physical inspection of I-9 documents.

 

  1. What should my company include in the recommended file memo for forms created in this period?

Per 8 CFR §274a.2(b)(2), the Form I-9 must be retained for the entire duration of each individual’s employment plus at least one additional year (three years from the date of hire or one year from the date of termination, whichever is later).

 

In the event some Form I-9s were completed late or did not have copies of documents attached due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, then be sure to write explanatory notes in Section 2. In the event of an inspection or other investigation, those notes and other evidences should confirm your company did all it could to stay compliant despite the trying circumstances.

 

  1. Does suspension of employer operations impact the employment verification requirements?

Yes. If a business is closed, then the Form I-9 requirements are tolled because it is not considered a “business day” for Form I-9 purposes. Again, remember to note this on the Form I-9.

 

  1. How does my company receive copies of the documents if an agent was used?

If sections 2 and 3 of the Form I-9 was completed remotely by an agent, your best practice would be for the person acting as the employer’s agent to make copies and deliver them to you. Or, you can make a copy of the documents as soon as the employee can bring them in. However, then you have the challenge of confirming that the documents presented are the same as those used for Form I-9 completion.

 

  1. How can my company ensure we provide clear communication throughout this outbreak?

Because employers and employees are dealing with many difficult issues during this extraordinary time, clear, concise and frequent communication – along with smart policies and proper procedures – are critical. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Create a file memo. This provides a record for future possible enforcement action.
  • Clearly communicate to employees the steps you’re taking in response to the pandemic and any related changes in procedures. Make sure all your actions are based on valid business and compliance-related factors. This will help to mitigate risk of any discrimination-related claims or enforcement.
  • Do not prescribe which document(s) should be presented by the employee. This will help you avoid violation of the anti-discrimination provisions found in 8 CFR §274b. The employee must choose which documents to present for verification or re-verification purposes. Always provide a copy of the List of Acceptable Documents attached to the Form I-9.
  • Great care should also be taken in how the Form I-9 (and document copies, if applicable) completed by an agent are stored and transmitted to your company so that personally identifiable information (PII) is protected.
  • Be sure to use the new Form I-9 version (10/21/2019 edition date) starting no later than May 1, 2020.
  • Lastly, it’s a good idea to create an action plan of priorities that balances the competing factors and document the same so it’s 1) clear any actions were taken out of both caution and for the sake of I-9 compliance during this global pandemic and 2) the actions you take were deemed in your employees’ best interest during these challenging times.

Please contact your Graham Adair representative with any questions.

Staffing company compensates employees for H-1B program violations after investigation

Login Consulting Services Inc., a Southern California-based staffing and recruitment company, has paid $58,815 after an investigation by the Department of Labor found the company to be in violation of the H-1B program. Investigators discovered that the company had illegally charged visa fees to the employee, “benched” the worker, and paid another worker below the guaranteed hourly rate established in the Labor Conditions Application they had submitted.

“Employers who wish to hire guest workers must fully familiarize themselves with the H-1B foreign labor certification program. The program is there to help American companies find the highly skilled talent they need when there is a shortage of U.S. workers,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Kimchi Bui, in Los Angeles, California. “The resolution of this case demonstrates our commitment to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for lawabiding employers, and ensure no one is being paid less than they are legally owed.”

Per the Department of Labor, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has established an email address dedicated to enable individuals (including both American workers and H-1B workers who suspect they or others may be the victim of H-1B fraud or abuse) to submit tips, alleged violations, and other relevant information about potential H-1B fraud or abuse. Individuals also can report allegations of H-1B violations by submitting Form WH-4 to the Division.”

France’s New Immigration Law Increases Restrictions on Intra-Company Transfers

Employers of foreign workers in France should take note of increased restrictions placed on Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Work Permits (Secondment) pursuant to the implementation of France’s 2018 Asylum and Immigration Law, which will go into effect on March 1, 2019.

The ICT Work Permit (Secondment) provides an avenue of mobility for an employee from a company outside of France to be transferred to a company in France that belongs to the same corporate group.

Under the 2018 Asylum and Immigration Law, restrictions on the ICT Work Permit (Secondment) will be increased as follows:

  • Assignee must have at least six (6) months of seniority within the group companies outside of France (comparison: changed from at least three (3) months);
  • The maximum time period for the corresponding residence permit is three (3) years and such residence permit is nonrenewable (comparison: previously the nonrenewable aspect for residence permits was not clearly stated); and
  • For an assignee to undertake a follow-up secondment, there must be a cool-off period of at least six (6) months where the assignee has resided outside of France (comparison: previously there was no cool-off period requirement).

Employers of foreign workers in France should identify which current and potential employees may be affected by the increased restrictions in respect of ICT Work Permits (Secondment) and plan accordingly.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Brexit Deal or No Deal – Transition Period in Netherlands may Soften Impact on Resident British Nationals under No Deal Scenario

Current and future employers of British nationals in the Netherlands will likely be impacted by the Brexit deal or no deal scenarios between the EU and UK.

At present, British nationals and their non-EU family members are not required to obtain residence permits in the Netherlands, although EU citizens are required to register as EU citizens. However, this arrangement would likely change if no deal is reached regarding Brexit between the EU and UK.

If a Brexit deal is not reached, British nationals (and their non-EU family members) residing and working in the Netherlands will be required to obtain residence permits. Accordingly, under this scenario, the Netherlands Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) would commence a transition period for British nationals and their non-EU family members, starting from Brexit Day, March 29, 2019, and lasting until July 1, 2020.

During the transition period, British nationals and their non-EU family members would be allowed to maintain residency, employment, and study rights in the Netherlands. Prior to March 29, 2019, Dutch authorities intend to send out official letters, which would serve as proof of temporary residence. These official letters would remain valid until July 1, 2020. However, after July 1, 2020, British nationals would be required to have obtained Dutch residence permits in order to work in the Netherlands. The application process for such residence permits would mean that British nationals would be required to meet the same eligibility requirements as EU citizens (including sufficient income, health insurance, payment of applicable fees, and so on).

To facilitate the application for residence permits under the no deal scenario, Dutch authorities intend to send out a notice letter by April 1, 2020, notifying individuals to apply for residence permits. Non-EU family members of British nationals who are also living in the Netherlands would also likely be required to obtain residence permits.

Employers of British nationals in the Netherlands must stay abreast of developments in any Brexit agreement, and ensure proper measures are timely taken so that British national employees and their non-EU family members maintain proper immigration status in light of the Brexit situation.

Regarding EU citizens in the UK, pursuant to a UK government policy paper dated December 6, 2018, EU citizens residing in the UK by March 29, 2019 will remain eligible to participate in the EU Settlement Scheme even under a “no deal” scenario. Accordingly, those EU citizens residing in the UK by March 29, 2019 will have until December 31, 2020 to apply and register for “Settled” (if they have lived in the UK for more than five years) or “Pre-Settled” status (if they have lived in the UK for less than five years). Other EU citizens who enter the UK after March 29, 2019 will be treated differently in that only British laws will apply to them in respect of their immigration status.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative.

Chad Graham Quoted in San Francisco Chronicle on Proposed H-1B Visa Changes

Chad Graham was recently quoted in Melia Russell’s San Francisco Chronicle article “H-1B visa shift may favor tech companies.” In the article, Chad discusses the steps employers should take to comply with the upcoming changes to the H-1B program. He also comments on USCIS’ relatively short notice and public comment period, saying it likely “means they want to push it for this year.”

To read the full article, click here.

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