Raise Your Hand If You’re Confused about I-9 Reverifications for Employees with TPS

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a humanitarian benefit available to foreign nationals who are unable to return to their home countries because of certain temporary conditions including ongoing armed conflict such as civil war, an environmental disaster like an earthquake, hurricane, epidemic, or other extraordinary conditions. During TPS designation, qualifying foreign nationals are not removable from the US and can obtain work authorization and travel permission.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently terminated TPS for nationals of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan but has granted a period of orderly departure to allow time for this population to wind up their affairs in the US. This has left employers in a quandary about which TPS holders remain able to work and how to comply with Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verifications.

To help ease the confusion, the chart below illustrates TPS-designated countries, the dates by which beneficiaries were required to re-register and, for those who do re-register, how long their current Employment Authorization Cards (EAD) are automatically extended pending decisions of EAD renewal applications. The TPS termination dates for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan are also included.

Country

Re-Registration Period Ends

EAD Auto-Extended Until

TPS End Date

El Salvador

03/19/2018

09/05/2018

09/09/2019

Haiti

03/19/2018

07/21/2018

07/22/2019

Honduras

02/13/2018

07/04/2018

Nepal

12/27/2016

06/24/2017

Nicaragua

02/13/2018

07/04/2018

01/05/2019

Somalia

03/20/2017

South Sudan

11/20/2017

05/01/2018

Sudan

12/11/2017

05/01/2018

11/12/2018

Syria

09/30/2016

03/31/2017

Yemen

03/06/2017

09/03/2017

As reflected in the chart above, sometimes DHS issues a blanket automatic extension of the expiring EADs for TPS beneficiaries of a specific country in order to allow time for EADs with new validity dates to be issued. The automatic extension periods are available to those TPS beneficiaries who timely re-register and apply to renew their EADs.

Although an employer cannot specify which documents an employee can present in connection with the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process, TPS beneficiaries with automatic EAD extensions may present an expired EAD bearing the C19 eligibility code along with a Form I-797C Notice of Action indicating the eligibility category code A12 or C19. The codes need not be the same.

The M-274 Handbook for Employers is an excellent resource in determining how to complete the Form I-9 for those employees with automatic EAD extensions. It specifies that:

“For a current employee, update Section 2 of Form I-9 with the new expiration date as follows:

  • Draw a line through the old expiration date and write the new expiration date in the margin of Section 2;

  • Write EAD EXT in Section 2;

  • Initial and date the correction.”

For TPS beneficiaries, the new expiration date should correspond with the respective date as noted in the chart above. An employee whose employment authorization is automatically extended along with his/her EAD may cross out the “employment authorized until” date in Section 1, write the new expiration date as reflected in the chart, initial and date the change.

A new employee may present the expired EAD and Form I-797C Notice of Action indicating USCIS’s receipt of the employee’s timely filed renewal application. When completing Section 1, the employee should enter the corresponding date from the chart in the “employment authorized until mm/dd/yyyy” field.

When completing Section 2, the employer should enter into the Expiration Date field the date the automatic extension period expires, not the expiration date on the face of the expired EAD. The employer should enter the receipt number from the I-797C Notice of Action as the document number on Form I-9. Note that reverification is required when the employee’s automatic extension ends.

While an employer is not required to be an expert in I-9 documents and review, having access to reliable resources comes in handy and will take you to the head of the class.

 

Copyright © 2018 Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP, All Rights Reserved.
This post was written by Jennifer Cory of Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP.

Are You Using the New I-9 Form?

Form I-9As the Trump administration settles in, those of us who counsel employers have cautioned to “expect the unexpected.” Certainly, the last five weeks have brought a bevy of twists and turns. However, one consistent theme from the new administration has been a tough stance on immigration-related matters. Accordingly, employers must pay close attention to the newly revised Employment Eligibility Verification — which we all refer to more commonly as the I-9 form — that is now in effect.

As we reported last October, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Department issued an updated version of the I-9 form on November 14, 2016. According to USCIS, all employers are required to have begun using the new form as of January 22, 2017. In other words, if you are still using the prior version of the I-9 form, you must immediately switch to the latest version.

The new I-9 form, which can be accessed here, has been referred to as the “Smart I-9” because employers can now access an interactive pdf version of the form, which includes a variety of technical advantages, such as:

  • Drop down menus for ease in selecting dates and inserting data

  • Automatic prompts in order to confirm that information is entered correctly

  • Real-time error notifications, if information is not properly entered

  • The ability to receive help while entering information via use of a clickable question mark

  • A unique barcode attached to each form, which allows for easy identity in the event of an audit

While these advances will make it easier to complete I-9 forms, it is important to remember that the process is not completely electronic. Employers still have the option to print out a blank form and complete their entries the old fashioned way — with a pen. Or, they can fill in fields electronically and print out the completed form. But either way, the forms still must be physically printed and signed (there is no provision for electronic signatures) and stored in hard copy format.

In addition to the technical advances, the new I-9 forms contain a few substantive differences as well. Some of these changes include:

  • The “Other Names Used” field is now replaced by “Other Last Names Used.” This is intended to increase privacy and avoid potential discrimination against transgender persons whose first names may have changed.

  • Foreign nationals authorized to work in the United States previously were required to provide both an I-94 number (a specific passport stamp issued by Customs Border Protection) and foreign passport information. With the new form an individual who claims status as a foreign national authorized to work in the U.S. can provide either an I-94 number, an alien registration number, or a foreign passport number.

  • The prior I-9 form only contained one signature field for preparers or translators. This caused difficulty when multiple individuals had to squeeze their signatures into one small box. The new form allows for up to five individual preparers or translators to sign and date the form in their own individual fields.

Effective immediately, make sure that you are using the new I-9 form for all of your hires. (It is not necessary to go back and re-complete I-9 forms for existing employees). Given the administration’s focus in immigration, as well as recently announced penalty increases for I-9 violations, this is an area in which all employers should exercise extreme care.

© 2017 Foley & Lardner LLP

Draft Form I-765V, EAD Application for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouse: Comments Open

nonimmigrant spouseOn May 27, USCIS posted for comment on the Federal Register draft versions of Form I-765V, Application for Employment Authorization for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouse and its instructions. Under section 106 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, abused spouses of certain nonimmigrants are eligible for employment authorization: i.e., the spouses of foreign nationals in the following nonimmigrant categories:

  • A-1, A-2, and A-3 (foreign government diplomats and officials and their immediate family members, attendants, servants, and personal employees);

  • E-3 (Australian specialty occupation workers);

  • G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, and G-5 (employees of foreign governments and international organizations and their immediate family members, attendants, servants, and personal employees);

  • and H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, and H-4 (specialty occupation workers, Free Trade Agreement professionals from Chile and Singapore, temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers, trainees and special education exchange visitors, and immediate family members of specialty occupation workers).

Earlier this year, March 8, 2016, USCIS released a Policy Memorandum regarding the eligibility of such applicants. Pursuant to the memo, along with the Form I-765V EAD application, credible evidence should be presented to prove various eligibility factors, including that the applicant resides in the United States, that the applicant is or was (under specific circumstances) married to the qualifying principal nonimmigrant spouse, that the applicant was last admitted to the United States in nonimmigrant status, and that the applicant or the applicant’s child was abused or subject to extreme cruelty by the principal nonimmigrant spouse. If approved, the EAD should be granted for two years. Supporting documentation should include copies of the marriage certificate, evidence of the abuse, and I-94 records and biographical identification documents of both the applicant and the principal spouse.

The draft EAD application Form for abused nonimmigrant spouses is six pages, while the regular Form I-765 used by applicants eligible for employment authorization under other bases is only one page. Form I-765V requests information not only on the applicant’s immigration status, but also on biographical physical features including ethnicity, race, height, weight, and eye and hair color. Form I-765V also allows for information to be completed regarding a safe mailing address and an interpreter. Further, the draft Form requests an Applicant’s Certification regarding the authenticity of documents and release of information. USCIS estimates that completing the application Form and preparing the documentation will take three hours per response.

USCIS encourages comments on the draft Form I-765V. Specifically, USCIS seeks feedback regarding whether the proposed collection of information on the form is necessary, the burden on the applicants to compete the form, the accuracy of USCIS’ estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, and the clarity, quality, and utility of the information to be collected. Comments will be accepted for 60 days, until July 26, 2016. All comments should reference OMB Control number 1615-NEW and Docket ID USCIS-2016-0004. Comments can be made online, by email, or by mail.

©2016 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.

Supreme Court’s Decision on Future of DACA and DAPA

Supreme Court argument has taken place in United States v. Texas, a high-stakes, hotly contested case on the Administration’s executive programs that deferred possible deportation of millions of undocumented individuals. The Court’s expected June decision is likely to have far-reaching implications for employers.

In 2012, the Obama Administration introduced through executive action Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program which deferred deportation of certain individuals who arrived to the United States unlawfully as minors. DACA allowed these individuals access to employment authorization. In late-2014, the Administration, again through executive action, expanded DACA, in part, by increasing the available periods of employment authorization for DACA beneficiaries from two years to three years, and introduced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). DAPA is a program which deferred deportation of and created a basis for employment authorization for parents who, as of November 20, 2014, had a child who was a U.S. citizen or green card holder.

In February 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas concluded the 2014 DACA expansion and DAPA creation were unconstitutional and enjoined the 2014 executive action. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the lower court’s injunction later that year. The Administration appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case raises the threshold issue as to whether states have the right to bring such an action and carries with it broad implications for the limits on and use of executive power. The case is important for employers because hundreds of thousands of individuals have obtained employment authorization through DACA’s 2012 guidelines and more than 100,000 more received three-year employment authorization approvals through the 2014 expansion before the district court’s injunction.  It was expected that many individuals would continue to apply for three-year employment authorization under the DACA expansion and DAPA creation.  Since February 2015 and until the Supreme Court renders a decision, only individuals qualifying under the original 2012 DACA guidelines may obtain employment authorization, limited to two-year increments.  If the Supreme Court agrees with the Fifth Circuit, then the DACA expansion and DAPA program will be nullified.  Whether the pre-2014 DACA program and guidelines would survive a Supreme Court decision affirming the Fifth Circuit’s ruling is unclear.

Contributing to the interest in and speculation about this case is the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent death. Should the Supreme Court’s deliberations end in a 4-4 tie, the lower court’s ruling  would remain intact and undisturbed, thus foreclosing the ability of individuals who would otherwise be qualified for employment authorization under DACA expansion and DAPA to receive employment authorization as the 2014 executive action intended.  However, because an affirmance by an equally divided 4-4 Court would be non-precedential, the issues could be raised again in another case, after a ninth justice was seated on the Court.

There will be great interest in the outcome of this case as the end of the current term approaches.

It’s H-1B Season! Employers Urged to Begin Preparation of New H-1B Visa Petitions for April 1st Filing

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On April 1st each year, United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting petitions from employers seeking to employ newH-1B workers during the next fiscal year. The number of available new H-1Bs is capped at 65,000 per fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 slots available to foreign nationals holding advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. This fixed number of H-1Bs available per fiscal year is known as the “H-1B cap.”

If, during the first five business days of April, USCIS receives more H-1B petitions than it is allowed to adjudicate, USCIS will randomly select H-1B petitions for adjudication among all of the petitions received during the five-day filing window. In 2014, USCIS received more than 172,000 petitions within the brief filing window; we anticipate that the number of petitions filed during this year’s five-day window will again exceed the H-1B cap. To ensure that H-1B petitions are included within the random selection process, we recommend that employers make hiring decisions for foreign national workers and job applicants as soon as possible and prepare to file petitions for new H-1B employment so that the petitions are received by USCIS on or about April 1, 2015.

In most cases, individuals who currently have H-1B status, whether with you or another employer, need not worry about the annual H-1B cap. However, other individuals, including those who are currently in F-1 (student) or J-1 (exchange visitor) status may need new H-1B petitions filed on their behalf in order to transition to H-1B employment and avoid gaps in employment authorization. Please note that the H-1B cap does not apply to employees of (i) colleges and universities; (ii) nonprofit organizations related to or affiliated with a nonprofit college or university; or (iii) nonprofit or governmental research organizations.

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Work and Travel Guidance for F-1 Students with Pending H-1B “Change of Status” Applications and “Cap-Gap” Employment Authorization

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This advisory summarizes key travel and employment issues if you are an F-1 studentwith Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment eligibility and an H-1B filing on your behalf has been accepted by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).USCIS will adjudicate these visa petitions over the next few months and approved petitions will have an October 1, 2014 start date. The good news is that your OPT employment card is automatically extended, by operation of law, with validity to September 30, 2014 under the “cap-gap” OPT extension rule. This means you can continue working legally even after the expiration of your OPT employment card. We recommend that you alert your school’s international student office by providing that office with a copy of the H-1B receipt notice. The international student office will use this receipt information to update your I-20 to show the extension of your OPT.

International travel between now and October 1 is complicated, and whether you can travel and return to work before October 1 depends on your specific situation. As a general rule, it is safest not to travel during the cap-gap period. In all cases, travel as an F-1 student with OPT requires a valid F-1 visa stamp, Form I-20 with updated authorization for travel from your school’s international student office, the OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and proof of current employment in the US (employer letter and/or recent pay slips).

Please note that any international travel carries risks. If your F-1 visa has expired and you need to apply for a new one, you may face delays for extra security clearances (221(g) administrative processing), or you may not be able to prove you have nonimmigrant intent, which is required for F-1 visa applications. Furthermore, even with a valid F-1 visa, admission to the US is up to the discretion of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. We therefore caution you to carefully consider the need to travel as an F-1 student with OPT and list below some of the common scenarios and our recommendations.

1. My OPT employment card has not expired and my H-1B petition has been accepted, but not yet approved.

If you travel outside the US in this situation, the change of status part of your H-1B petition will be abandoned. This means that even when the H-1B is approved, your status will not change to H-1B because you departed the US while the H-1B “change of status” petition was pending. Your employment eligibility will end on September 30, 2014 with expiration of the cap-gap extension, and you will need to depart the US, apply for an H-1B visa stamp based on the petition approval, and reenter after October 1, 2014 to activate your status as an H-1B worker.

2. My OPT employment card has not expired and my H-1B has been approved.

In this situation, according to guidance from USCIS, it is possible to travel and not abandon the change of status because it has already been approved and is for a date in the future. Since there is no abandonment, once you return to the US on your F-1 visa, your change of status will be effective on October 1. However, there is a very real risk in traveling in this scenario as upon approval by USCIS of your H-1B petition, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) may no longer reflect that you are an F-1 student and you may have difficulties entering the US in F-1 status.

3. My OPT employment card has expired.

In this situation, you are eligible to remain in the US and continue working under the cap-gap extension rule discussed above. However, there is no provision or guidance from USCIS that allows for reentry during this cap-gap period once your EAD has expired. Therefore, if you must depart the US during this period, you will not be able to return to the US until you obtain an H-1B visa stamp based on approval of the H-1B petition. Initial entry into the US on an H-1B visa is allowed up to 10 days in advance of the start date of the petition approval. So, for an October 1 start date, this entry date can be as early as September 21. However, you will not be able to resume employment until October 1, 2014. Unless there is an emergent need to travel and arrangements can be made for remote work outside the US, you should make no plans to travel after expiration of your OPT employment card.

4. I need to depart the US and will not return until October 1 or later and will apply for the H-1B visa.

You can apply for the H-1B visa stamp any time after approval of the H-1B petition as soon as you can schedule an appointment at the US Embassy or Consulate. The visa will not be effective until October 1, 2014, but you can, and are encouraged to, apply for it as soon as possible to avoid the rush in September. Please note H-1B nonimmigrants are allowed to enter the US up to 10 days in advance of the petition validity. However, you cannot start employment in H-1B status until October 1. This 10-day time period is intended to allow you to get settled in the US before starting employment.

5. My H-1B petition was denied by USCIS.

If your H-1B petition is denied and your OPT EAD is still valid, you are authorized for ongoing employment in the US until your EAD expires. However, cap-gap employment eligibility after expiration of the EAD is only valid while the H-1B petition is pending with USCIS. Therefore, you are no longer eligible to continue working in the US if your H-1B petition is denied and your OPT EAD has expired.

The examples above all deal with the situation where the H-1B filing has been accepted by USCIS out of the quota. If the H-1B petition filed on your behalf was rejected, you may choose to travel if you have a valid F-1 visa stamp, Form I-20 with updated authorization for travel from your school’s international student office, the OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and proof of current employment in the US in the form of an employer letter and/or recent pay slips. You may also stay in the US for 60 days after the expiration of your F-1 OPT status, but only for purposes of settling your personal affairs and domestic travel within the US. You are not allowed to work during this 60-day grace period. If you travel outside the US during the 60-day grace period, even if you do not plan to work upon your return, you will not likely be readmitted because you will be deemed to have departed the US at the conclusion of your F-1 program, thus fulfilling the need for the 60-grace period. The 60-day grace period is not meant to facilitate international travel and reentry — it is designed to allow F-1 students to remain in the US at the end of the F-1 program to settle their affairs until they are ready to depart the US.

E-Verify: North Carolina and Federal Requirements

An article by Jennifer G. Parser of Poyner Spruill LLP regarding E-Verify appeared recently in The National Law Review:

North Carolina’s Rule

Last June, 2011, North Carolina joined the ranks of an increasing number of states requiring the use of E-Verify.  E-Verify is a free internet-based system that allows employers to determine employment authorization by checking an employee’s documentation against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases.  It applies to certain federal contractors, but also is being adopted by states, regardless of federal contracts being involved.

North Carolina counties, cities and public universities were required to register and participate in E-Verify by October 1, 2011. Private sector employers’ participation in E-Verify is phased in more slowly, according to the employer’s size:

  • Employers with 500 or more employees will be required to participate by October 1, 2012;
  • Employers with 100 or more employees will be required to participate by January 1, 2013; and
  • Employers with 25 or more employees will be required to participate by July 1, 2013.

Federal E-Verify Rule

Private businesses in North Carolina are required to verify the employment eligibility of current employees regardless of the above phased-in legislation if the employer has been awarded a federal contract on or after September 8, 2009 that contains the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause. Such federal contractors must enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of the contract award date regardless of the business’ size. After enrollment, the federal contractor has 90 days to use E-Verify.  The federal contractor must then use E-Verify for new hires within 3 business days of the employee’s start date.

E-Verify must also used for existing employees assigned to work on the  federal contract within 90 days of the federal contract being awarded or within 30 days of the employee’s assignment to work on the federal contract, whichever is later. For existing employees to be required to be  run through E-Verify, the employee must perform substantial work under the federal contract which does not include administrative or clerical functions.  E-Verify does not apply to work that is performed outside the US, if the term of the federal contract lasts less 120 days, or if the federal contract pertains to commercially available off the shelf items.  A “commercially available off the shelf item”, known COTS, is something generally sold in substantial quantities in the open market.  A few examples are computer software, computer hardware and construction materials.  Also, industries that hire agricultural workers for 90 days or less in a 12 month period are exempt from enrolling in Federal E-Verify.

Unless the subcontractor is a supplier and not subject to the E-Verify federal contractor rule, a federal contractor must also ensure that its subcontractors enroll in and use E-Verify if:

  • The prime contract includes the Far E-Verify clause,
  • The subcontract is for commercial or noncommercial services or construction,
  • The subcontract has a value of more than $3,000, or
  • The subcontract includes work performed in the United States.

A Few Important Rules for Any Business Enrolled in E-Verify 

  • Post the notices that the business is now enrolled in E-Verify alongside antidiscrimination notices by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices
  • When completing the I-9 form, the employee’s choice of a List B document must contain a photograph in order to be run through E-Verify
  • Do not use E-Verify selectively
  • Do not use E-Verify to pre-screen job applicants; it is used post-hiring
  • Do not ask for additional documentation in the event of a “Tentative Nonconfirmation” by E-Verify: allow the employee time to correct any error by visiting the local SSA office
  • Do not terminate or take adverse action against an employee  who receives a tentative nonconfirmation: allow them time to correct the error

Penalties, Federal- and State-Imposed

There have been substantial fines levied for immigration-related offenses by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against employers enrolled in E-Verify, proving enrollment in E-Verify will not save an employer from potential violations.

Civil penalties for violations of  North Carolina’s E-Verify law are assessed by the NC Commissioner of Labor and range from $1,000 to $10,000.

E-Verify Link

Unless already enrolled in E-Verify as a federal contractor or subcontractor or having elected to do so on a voluntary basis, North Carolina employers with 25 or more employees would do well to visit the E-Verify website.  Click here.  At this point, there is time to become acquainted with E-Verify and its enrollment procedures before registration becomes mandatory.

© 2012 Poyner Spruill LLP