The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has not yet decided whether to beef up its border patrols or concentrate on random inspections of companies that hire foreign-born employees, said two attorneys with the law firm Epstein Becker & Green P.C. who specialize in immigration law.
“Immigration law is a weapon that must be used effectively to deal with international terrorism,” said Robert Groban Jr., partner in EBG’s New York office. “The immigration laws of Sept. 10 no longer apply; foreign workers may have to rethink just getting on a plane and signing a visa waiver to travel in and out of the U.S. because they might not get back in now,” he noted.
William Poole, partner in EBG’s Atlanta office, and Mr. Groban advised employers to keep close track of their H1B, or professional workers’ visa records. They conducted a seminar on new developments in immigration law last week at The Clubhouse at Lenox.
Companies should reevaluate each H1B employee’s documents and be able to present proper documentation for all employees, as random INS checks may or may not become more commonplace under heightened immigration regulations, Mr. Poole advised.
Companies should also make sure they go through the proper procedures for hiring an H1B employee from another firm. A common mistake is to assume if an employee already has an H1B visa from another company that he or she can work for a new company with that same visa. This is not the case, Mr. Poole warned. The hiring company must apply for a new visa for the employee, he said.
Both attorneys agreed that as immigration into the U.S. becomes more restricted, consular offices will no longer be as willing to “bend over backwards” to help H1B employees who make mistakes in reapplying for visas, switching visa status or applying for spouses’ visas.
While companies can usually get away with employing workers without proper documentation, legally the companies are at risk, both attorneys suggested.
With some 65,000 cases of visa applications still pending in the INS’s Mesquite, Texas, processing center, applications and changes for H1B visas are already backlogged, and after Sept. 11, employers should only expect “delays and more delays,” Mr. Groban said.
So firms should review employees’ documents now to avoid losing an employee over visa complications, he advised.
For a copy of required documentation needed by companies employing H1B workers or for other immigration questions, contact Mr. Poole at (404) 233-6200. Contact Mr. Groban at (212) 351-4689.