2013 saw the first major attempt at comprehensive immigration reform since 2006-07, a revised Form I-9 and an electronic version of Form I-94.
Here’s a summary of the year’s top 10 SHRM Online Global HR immigration-related stories that resonated most with readers.
New Form I-9
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released the newest revised Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 on March 8, 2013. All employers should be using this form, with the revision date of 03/08/13 on the bottom left-hand corner.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Passes Senate
In June the U.S. Senate advanced the most significant overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in decades. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) would allow the nation’s estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants to begin a 13-year path to citizenship almost immediately with a provisional legal status; spend billions to double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol; expand the federal E-Verify electronic employment verification program nationwide; substantially increase the number of temporary work visas for highly skilled foreign nationals trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and create new visas to bring in workers for jobs in construction, retail and agriculture.
The overhaul would clear up the decades-long green card backlogs and change America’s long-standing preference for family-based immigration by giving more preference to workers.
The House of Representatives, meanwhile, slowly rolled out its immigration-reform legislation one issue at a time. The House is expected to introduce more immigration-related bills in 2014.
H-1B Visa Lottery Announced
As SHRM Online predicted in February, the H-1B visa cap was reached in five days in April, leading the USCIS to call for a computer-generated lottery for the first time since 2008.
Immigration Services and the Government Shutdown
The 16-day shutdown of the U.S. federal government affected immigration services across the gamut of related agencies, slowing or stopping employment verification, visa issuance and labor certifications. SHRM Online outlined how to resolve procedural issues, including dealing with an E-Verify backlog, once the government resumed operations.
Confusion Over Prepopulating I-9s
The rules on employers prepopulating or filling out any part of Section 1 of Form I-9 before employees have completed it brought about confusion in 2013 because of federal officials’ contradictory statements.
Immigration attorneys said companies may prepopulate Section 1 as long as the person who does this also completes the “Preparer and/or Translator Certification” part of the form.
Skilled-Worker Shortage Worsens
The shortage of high-tech and other skilled workers in the United States was predicted to increase over the next decade, leaving companies scrambling to find innovative ways to hire and retain qualified people, according to HR experts.
DOL Scrutiny of PERM Applications
Applications for permanent labor certification (PERM) continued to face intense scrutiny, increased audits and denials by the Department of Labor (DOL). Recent Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals decisions highlighted the trend. What’s more, processing times were getting longer at the DOL, so cases had to be started earlier to satisfy H-1B visa and other expiration dates.
Form I-94 Goes Electronic
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in March that it was doing away with the familiar paper Form I-94 for most users. Stating that the move would ease foreigners’ entry into the U.S. and save millions of dollars in processing costs, the agency formally submitted new rules that would automate the form and make it electronic.
Form I-94 provides international visitors with evidence that they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S., which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status and employment authorization. The paper card has been issued to most foreign nationals arriving in the United States for the past 50 years. Since the rollout of the automated I-94 card process, many foreign travelers have reported having problems retrieving their electronic I-94 record from the CBP website.
USCIS Clarifies Use of RFEs
USCIS issued a policy memo to its staff in June, explaining the use of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny when adjudicating immigration petitions, applications and other requests. The memo was in response to an Office of Inspector General report that raised questions about the proper use of RFEs in adjudication.
Infosys Hit with Record-Setting Visa Fraud Fine
In October, Indian tech giant Infosys agreed to pay the largest immigration fine ever levied by the U.S. government—$34 million—to settle a lawsuit relating to visa fraud.
An investigation by the Homeland Security, Justice and State departments found that Infosys illegally placed workers with U.S. clients using inexpensive, easy-to-obtain B-1 visas meant to cover short business visits, instead of the more costly, harder-to-get H-1B work visas issued for longer-term employment. The investigation also revealed that more than 80 percent of the company’s I-9 forms for 2010 and 2011 contained substantive violations.
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Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.
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