President Bush Renews Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
In his State of the Union address on January 23, President Bush called for a "serious, civil and conclusive debate" on the issue of immigration reform. President Bush asked Congress to support a bill that would give millions of immigrants a chance to earn legal status, increase resources for immigration enforcement, and establish a guest worker program for future foreign workers.
Last year, the Senate approved an immigration reform bill that mirrored Bush's proposal, but sharp differences with the House could not be reconciled and the bill eventually failed. Many are predicting that the new Democratic House could pass legislation granting the chance for legal status for many of the country's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.
"We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals," President Bush said. "And we need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty."
President Bush also pledged to push for a temporary guest-worker program. The temporary guest-worker program would give immigrants the opportunity to pay a stiff fine, learn English, pay taxes, pass a background check, and hold a job for a certain number of years, in exchange for legalization of their immigration status. The program would also match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans could be found to fill specific jobs. We will continue to track the progress on any immigration reform measures considered by Congress.
Employer Practice Pointer: Conducting an Internal I-9 Audit
With the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) recent pronouncement of a new, tougher approach to workplace immigration enforcement, it is more important than ever that employers complete and maintain I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms properly. The enforced mechanisms against employers for violations include not only civil fines, but potentially criminal charges and federal forfeiture of the company's assets.
To avoid such penalties, we recommend that employers consider conducting regular "internal audits" of the company's I-9 forms. We can conduct audits either in person at the company location or offsite, based on copies of the I-9 forms. A careful review of the I-9 forms will allow the employer an opportunity to correct any technical violations, train personnel responsible for I-9 completion and tracking, and help develop compliance procedures and best practices moving forward.
Based on our experience, the following are some important tips to avoid many of the common problems we typically find:
- Section 1: Section 1 must be completed by the employee on or before the first day of employment. The employer is responsible to make sure that the employee has completed, signed, and dated this portion of the form.
- Section 2: Section 2 must be completed, signed and dated by a company representative on or before the end of an individual's third day of employment. The employee must either present a List A document, which provides proof of identity and authorized employment, or both a List B (identity) and List C (employment authorization) document. The company representative should never request or suggest a specific document. In addition, the employer representative should be sure to include the employee's commencement date of employment, and sign and date the form.
- Section 3: To re-verify an employee's work authorization, the company representative may complete Section 3 on the bottom of the original Form I-9. If Section 3 has already been used, the company representative may write the individual's name in Section 1 of a new Form I-9, complete Section 3 on the new form, and then keep both the original and new Form I-9 together. Re-verification is available if the employee is re-hired within three years of the initial hire date and the individual's previous work authorization has expired but he or she is eligible to work on a different basis. If the company rehires an individual within three years of the initial hire date and the individual is eligible for employment on the same basis as at the time of the initial hire, the company representative can simply update the original form in Section 3. In this case, the representative would record the date of re-hire and sign and date Section 3.
Once an internal audit is complete and problem areas are identified, we can help you develop a training program to address proper completion and maintenance of the I-9 form. I-9 forms for current employees should track the expiration dates of employment documents. We recommend that I-9 forms for terminated employees be organized in order of eligible purge date. Once an individual has been terminated, his or her I-9 form can be disposed of either three years after the initial date of hire or one year after the date of termination, whichever is later.
The I-9 form can be downloaded from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at http://www.uscis.gov. General information about the I-9 process is also available at the website.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about setting up an internal I-9 audit.
USCIS Introduces Online Change of Address Service
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently launched a new web-based service that allows foreign nationals to submit their change of address information online. All non-citizens in the United States are legally required to keep USCIS informed of any change of address within 10 days of their move. Before introduction of the new web-based service, foreign nationals had to complete and mail an Alien Change of Address Card (Form AR-11). Change of Address is now available online on the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov/AR-11.
USCIS has announced that the new service is the first phase of the online system. Phase two, expected to launch sometime in May, will include additional customer service features, such as allowing applicants with a pending naturalization application to report their change of address online.
Before using the online service, users should have the following information available:
- USCIS receipt number (if you have a pending case with USCIS)
- New and old addresses
- Names and biographical information for all family members for whom you have filed a petition
- Date and location of your last entry into the United States
USCIS will continue to accept Alien Change of Address Cards (Forms AR-11) through the mail. Please do not to hesitate to contact us if you or your employees have questions or concerns about the new web-based service.