Any business owner should know that there are several areas of the business in which taking an active approach, rather than a passive approach, can end up saving a lot of money in the long run. One employment process where proactivity especially pays off is immigration. The more effort that employers take to understand how to be compliant with immigration laws, the more money they can save by avoiding non-compliance and legal fees.
In this day and age, immigration has become an increasingly pressing and complex issue. Efficient and predictable immigration policies would be instrumental in enabling employers to manage talent and compete successfully in the global market. The reality, however, is that immigration is a complicated issue and has historically been difficult for countries to navigate. One simply has to turn on the news to see multiple examples of the complications currently being brought up by the conflict and unpredictability concerning immigration law.
This is all the more reason for employers to be on top of the ever-changing rules and regulations. Ensuring compliance is key for employers who do not wish, or cannot afford to, pay high amounts later down the road for failing to comply. Because the landscape is often changing, employers must be cognizant of the changes and how they will affect the workplace. That being said, there are some general steps and processes concerning immigration that all employers should place some focus on.
Reviewing I-9 Forms: This form is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired to work in the United States. Both employees and employers must complete it. A good practice is to frequently review the current I-9 forms on file with the company. Reviewing a sample size of forms from different periods of completion can be helpful for getting an idea of whether or not there are any potential issues with the forms. Some things to look for include:
- Whether or not the forms were correctly completed within three days of the worker’s hire
- Whether or not there are completed forms for each current employee
- Whether or not current employees’ forms are kept separate from former employees’ forms
Address Shortcomings: After reviewing I-9 forms, employers should take the steps necessary to ensure everything is in place and all the materials needed are collected. The onus of collecting the necessary materials falls on the employer, so employers should be sure to communicate clearly and give employees multiple opportunities to present alternative documents in the event that their first choices are not compliant with I-9 requirements.
Establish a corporate immigration policy: It is good practice to create a written immigration policy for the company, to ensure clear and consistent communication. The language in the policy should be consistent with the language on other company materials, such as job applications, offer letters, and employment contracts. Some information in the policy might include:
- The circumstances under which the employer will sponsor a nonimmigrant visa and permanent resident status
- The circumstances under which the employer will engage outside counsel and cover fees related to the visa process
- Who will monitor an employee’s work once a visa has been obtained to ensure it complies with the visa petition
Survey the Landscape: While conducting internal reviews to ensure that everything is in order, be sure to keep some focus on the external immigration landscape. This means thinking about their workforce and how it may be impacted by immigration reform. Employers must consider if new hires will need visas and if current employees will need permit renewals, while also having some knowledge of which countries may be making immigration reform soon.
These steps are just a few that employers can take to be proactive in ensuring compliance with immigration law and avoiding the costly repercussions of noncompliance. The reality is that immigration is an increasingly complex issue that has various implications for employers, and employers are responsible for staying informed about changes in the immigration and landscape and how they will affect the workplace.