The federal government estimates that there are over 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. There’s fear that many of these immigrants are not paying their taxes and are receiving a living wage illegally. As such, any and all immigrant workers are put under a magnifying glass to ensure their legality.
If your business has hired immigrants, then it’s important to know how to protect yourself and your employees. Business immigration law is complicated and ever-changing, which means your team has to stay on top of it.
Here are some ways your business can focus on immigration compliance.
Understand the Different Types of Immigration Available
First of all, it’s important to learn what kind of corporate immigration visas are available for your employees. Some of the visas at play give U.S. companies the clear option to employ a foreign national, but others do not, and actually give the misimpression that adding the visa holder to their roster of employees is permitted.
For example, the B-1 and B-2 temporary visas allow foreign nationals short-term visits to the U.S. that are useful when meeting business partners. However, they’re not good for long-term stays or to allow a U.S. company to add that foreign national to their U.S. workforce.
An investor who hopes to start a profitable business in the US may qualify for the EB-5 investor green card program. It requires a large investment as well as a business that creates at least 10 jobs for US residents. The time limit is two years, but completion of the program leads to permanent residence.
An L-1 Intercompany Transfer Visa allows a person working for a foreign company to transfer to a related U.S. affiliate. This does require employment with the foreign company for at least one year, though and the foreign national must be an executive, manager or a “specialized knowledge” worker
The H-1B is a specialized labor visa that has an annual quota restriction. The job being filled in the U.S. must be a professional position or one that typically requires the worker to possess a university degree in field related to the job duties in question. Generally, it can’t be used for self-employment. The initial period of stay can be up to three years, with the option of an additional three year (or more) extension.
If a particular worker performs at the top of their field, they may be granted an O-1 extraordinary ability visa. This also grants a three-year extendable stay.
Ensure that your employee has the relevant visa or other type of documented status before and after you hire them.
Prepare for Investigations
If your business utilizes immigrant employees, then you should expect to receive some routine inspections. Employers are responsible for verifying the identity of every person they hire. The first thing an ICE audit will look at is your I-9 forms.
To prepare for them, you should do a thorough audit of your I-9 policy. Ensure that all of your forms are up to date on all of your employees and create a process to correct any technical errors. Properly store your records and review your process for tracking immigration status.
The last part is especially important, as visas have this nasty habit of expiring. Not all foreigners are well-versed in how this system works, and they may let it run out without knowing. Even if they started working with you legally, they may become an “illegal immigrant” by accident.
It’s completely normal for employees to travel for their work, whether it’s to visit clients or to finalize deals with another state. However, in many situations this is not a safe practice for foreign workers to participate in.
To begin with, traveling to other countries on certain visas is strictly prohibited. Doing so will cause the current visa to expire and require the individual to apply for a new one.
Additionally, international travel on a more secure visa can still cause problems. They may get detained at the airport and shipped back to their “origin” country if even the slightest thing is wrong with their paperwork.
Evaluate Your Internal Resources
One of the best ways to get ahead of business immigration law compliance is to have a team that can handle the job. However, your in-house staff may not have the resources to handle it all.
Hiring paralegals can help in the short term. They’re especially useful if you don’t take on a lot of foreign workers. The problem is that they’re often expensive, and you’ll have a limited pool to pull from.
At the very least, you should have your HR specialists confirm all the relevant paperwork on a routine basis to keep everything up to date.
Retain an Immigration Law Firm
Your business’s best option is to outsource your legal services with an immigration law firm. There are too many factors to keep track of for your business to handle it completely alone. You may need things like document verification, legal counsel, and even support in the courtroom.
For example, what should you do if your employee receives a Notice to Appear for Removal Proceedings or “NTA”? They will need to attend a removal hearing where the judge will preside over decision making regarding their right to remain in the U.S.
Your immigration attorney can help verify the employee’s legal status. Even if they are delivered a removal order, the individual has the right to appeal the decision. An outsourced immigration law firm has the time and resources to do right by your employees and give them the support they need.
Track Changes in Business Immigration Law
Finally, your business will need to stay on top of changes in both immigration and labor laws in your state and country. Corporate immigration is perfectly graspable, but the standards and rules are constantly changing.
One of the most recent examples of this is during the pandemic when documented foreign workers were forced to stay in their origin countries if they were traveling.
Florida has also passed a new immigration law this year impacting private employers with 25 or more employees and the method of verification employers must use to confirm a new hire’s legal status.
Comply and Protect Your Employees
Complying with business immigration law is a difficult endeavor without expert help. It’s worth hiring an immigration law firm to keep your foreign employees safe and protect your business from any legal trouble. Your HR department should also brush up on immigration law so they can keep an eye out for any red flags.
USA Visa Counsel provides immigration law representation and counsel for individuals and businesses across the world. Our law services cover corporate immigration, deportation defense, and personal immigration services. Contact us to learn more and tell us about your situation.