2009 was a year of fairly significant changes in the U.S. immigration landscape. While there were no significant steps taken toward comprehensive immigration reform, there were several old proposals relating to immigration compliance that were finalized. The Obama Administration brought a slightly modified methodology, but the former administration’s focus on increased immigration enforcement continued. So before the big ball drops in Times Square, it would be a good time to take stock of the year in immigration.
- New I-9 Form. The revised Form I-9 and certain regulatory changes became effective on April 3. One amazing fact about this regulation is that it implemented a reduction of acceptable documents required by a law passed by Congress more than 10 years ago! Employers are reminded to use the new form for new hires and for any reverification of existing employees. For a summary of the new requirements, see Ogletree Deakins’ April 3, 2009 E-Alert and update.
- ICE Audits I-9s. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a nationwide I-9 audit initiative on July 1, issuing Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to more than 650 employers. Reinforcing the new enforcement strategy, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton announced on November 19 the issuance of Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to 1,000 employers across the country.
- E-Verify for Federal Contractors. On November 14, 2008, the Bush Administration promulgated a final rule to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to require certain federal contractors to use E-Verify. After four delays and a lawsuit filed to prevent implementation, the federal contractor/E-Verify regulation finally became effective on September 8, 2009 (see the Ogletree Deakins E-Alert).
- Social Security No-Match Regulation Abandoned. In July 2009, Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be rescinding the Social Security “No-Match” regulation (see the DHS press release). In spite of the abandonment of the regulation, employers are reminded that No-Match letters should not be ignored – follow-up is strongly recommended as was noted in the July 2009 issue of the Immigration eAuthority.
- USCIS Conducts H-1B Employer Site Visits. Employers of H-1B workers (and sometimes L-1 workers) must remain prepared for possible site visits from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS). As reported in the August 2009 issue of the Immigration eAuthority, FDNS commenced site visits of thousands of H-1B employers. While numerous visits have been completed, site visits continue and are expected to continue over the next several weeks. Additional information and some general pointers for employers was provided in the October 2009 issue of the Immigration eAuthority.
In the post 9/11 era, commentators have been warning that increased immigration enforcement was coming. It would seem that all of that talk became a reality in 2009. The increase in enforcement in 2009 may just be the beginning. Still, employers have time to limit exposure by conducting self-audits and revisiting immigration compliance procedures.
Note: This article was published in the December 2009 issue of the Immigration eAuthority.