USCIS Releases New Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9

March 8th, 2013

On March 8, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released the official, newly revised Form I-9.

Employers are required to use the Form I-9 to verify the identity and the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees hired after November 1986.

What is Different in the new I-9?

USCIS has finalized the new form with the following major changes:

  • New data fields, including employee’s foreign passport information, telephone and email address;
  • Clarifying the form’s instructions; and
  • Revising the layout of the form and expanding it from one to two pages.

Form I-9 Revision Date

The new, revised Form I-9 will contain a revision date of “(Rev. 03/08/13)N.”  Employers should begin using this new form immediately.

Employers will have a 60-day grace period, until May 7, 2013, to comply by using the new form.  After May 7, 2013, employers who fail to use this new form may be subject to penalties imposed under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.  These provisions, as usual, would be enforced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The M-274 Handbook for Employers is in the process of being updated as well by USCIS in order to correspond to the new Form I-9.  Employers are advised by USCIS to follow instructions on the new Form I-9 until the revised M-274 Handbook for Employers has been updated.

Click here to access the USCIS I-9 website for the I-9 announcement.

Click here to access a downloadable copy of the new I-9

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law. We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more.

Connect with us today to learn how we can help you further your hiring goals.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify, I-9, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Worksite enforcement policies

U.S. Spends More on Immigration Enforcement than the Combined Funds of All Other Federal Criminal Law Enforcement Agencies

February 23rd, 2013

In a January 2013 report, the nonpartisan think-tank Migration Policy Institute (MPI) found that the U.S. government spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, with nearly $18 billion spent in fiscal year 2012.  This is approximately 24 percent higher than the collective spending for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. MPI also found that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refer more cases for federal prosecution than all Justice Department law enforcement agencies.

MPI’s comprehensive report offers a detailed analysis of the current immigration enforcement system and traces the evolution of the system, particularly in the post-9/11 era, in terms of budgets, personnel, enforcement actions, and technology. The result is the creation of a complex, interconnected, cross-agency system – in some ways by deliberate design; in others, by happenstance.

Six distinct pillars identify how this modern-day system is organized: border enforcement, visa controls and travel screening, information and interoperability of data systems, workplace enforcement, the intersection of the criminal justice system and immigration enforcement, and detention and removal of noncitizens. “This modern-day system,” says its authors, “extends well beyond U.S. borders to screen visitors against multiple intelligence and law enforcement databases before they arrive and also reaches into local communities across the country via partnerships with state and local law enforcement, information sharing and other initiatives.”

The following are among the report’s key findings:

  • deportations have reached record highs, with more than 4 million noncitizens deported since 1990, with removals rising from over 30,000 in FY 1990 to almost 400,000 in FY 2011.
  • fewer than half of the noncitizens deported are removed pursuant to a formal hearing before an immigration judge; instead the majority are by DHS via its administrative authority.
  • apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border fell to 40-year lows in 2011.
  • immigration enforcement has evolved to be a key tool in the nation’s counterterrorism strategies.

For the last many years, “enforcement first” was sought by successive congresses and administrations as a precondition for reforming the nation’s immigration laws.  The report makes clear that changes to the system accomplished this goal, having focused almost entirely on building enforcement programs and improving their performance. The findings pave the way for comprehensive immigration reform, given that the country’s enforcement priorities have been met.

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify, Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Comprehensive Immigration Reform on the Fast Track: Concrete Bill Expected in March; VAWA and Other Legislation

February 23rd, 2013

For the last two months, comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) has dominated the airwaves, from President Obama’s inauguration address and State of the Union, to hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives, to almost daily news articles in major national and ethnic newspapers, on the immediate need to overhaul our country’s immigration laws, for the benefit of our country and for the more than 11 million undocumented currently living here.  So far, the Administration and leading senators have issued two independent proposals to fix our broken immigration system in a comprehensive and common-sense approach, and their quick action demonstrates a real commitment to getting reform done in 2013.

While the precise legislative provisions of a immigration reform bill are not yet certain, the key points outlined by President Obama and the bipartisan group of senators working on a bill are similar.  Overall, the Senate plan outlined the following key points:

  • Creating a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S. that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
  • Reforming our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
  • Creating an effective, and probable, mandatory employment-verification system that prevents identity theft, ends the hiring of future unauthorized workers, and includes stiff penalties for egregious offenses;
  • Establishing an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers;
  • Reducing backlogs in the family and employment visa categories;
  • Providing permanent resident status to immigrants who have received a Ph.D. or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM fields) from a U.S. university;
  • Establishing a new agricultural worker program.

Where are we now?  Leaders in the Senate have given themselves a deadline of March 1 to produce legislative language that embodies the principles they released. The Administration, which has privately drafted an immigration bill so that it can “be ready” if the Senate fails to continue to move forward, has made it clear that the President will take a back seat to lawmakers, but also wants to see real progress by March. Once a bill is introduced by the Senate, it will go through normal Senate procedure, including hearings and a markup in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Debate will follow, then a vote on the Senate floor. To overcome a potential filibuster – currently viewed as probable – the bill will need to receive at least 60 votes. Once passed by the full Senate, the bill would move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Already, a couple of congressional hearings have been held and more are to come. On February 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on immigration reform, featuring DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and other witnesses. On February 5, the House Judiciary Committee kicked off its first immigration-focused hearing in the 113th Congress.

Meanwhile, the White House website has devoted a special section to President Obama’s 2013 comprehensive immigration reform proposal, with basic resources for the public and as a way to help advance the legislation.

It’s hard not to be extremely encouraged by the lightening-fast pace taken by Congress and the Administration to enact CIR. And, while the fight for a fair and balanced immigration system will continue over the next several months, the momentum for change is breathtaking.

We will keep you posted.

Senate Passes VAWA Reauthorization; House to Consider Bill

On February 12, the Senate passed by a vote of 78-22 the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that strengthens protections for all victims of sexual and domestic violence, particularly Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBT survivors of violence. The bill passed with significant bipartisan support. All eyes now move to the House of Representatives, where the legislation will be considered. Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, VAWA stalled in the House last year.

Other Immigration Legislation of Interest

The House of Representatives recently introduced two bills that are likely to become part of CIR.  They are the Immigration Innovation (I2) Act of 2013, which makes changes to the H-1B and student visas and increases access to employment-based green cards; and Reuniting Families Act, which promotes family unity in the immigration system and improvements to the family-based immigration preference system. Significantly, and among other things, the bill allows same-sex partners to apply for family-based immigration benefits.

Comment » | Immigration reform

DHS Entrepreneur Pathways Website and Other EIR Initiatives: Only As Good as the Visas and Adjudicators Permit

December 21st, 2012

As part of its initiative, Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR), USCIS recently launched a new website called Entrepreneur Pathways, designed to help business people understand what immigration options are open to them and to help navigate through detailed overviews of what they need to apply for appropriate visas. Nonimmigrant visa categories outlined include B-1, H-1B, L, E, and O. See

Launched earlier this year, EIR hopes to help stimulate more foreign start-ups and, in turn, boost the struggling U.S. economy.  Its stated goals are to draw upon industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices critical to American economic growth.  By working with start-up business experts, USCIS officials seek to streamline pathways for a range of existing nonimmigrant visa categories often used by entrepreneurs.

According to USCIS, its EIR team is now developing and deploying training workshops for adjudicators that focus on start-up businesses and the environment for early-stage innovations; is training a team of specialized immigration officers to handle entrepreneur and start-up cases; and is modifying its current documentation checklists (RFE templates) for certain nonimmigrant visa categories and thus incorporating new types of relevant evidence into the adjudicative process.  These changes are designed to ensure that USCIS stays current with real world business practices. (A new study released in the fall reported that immigrant-founded companies nationwide slipped for the first time in decades, and that the United States’ unwelcoming immigration system has created a “reverse brain drain.”)

While USCIS’s efforts are commendable, and especially so if adjudication criteria are truly overhauled, serious changes to the immigration laws still must be enacted if the U.S. is serious about attracting foreign entrepreneurs, investors, and related talent.  Here are some problems that must be addressed.

First, there is no specific visa category – nonimmigrant or immigrant – for foreign nationals who seek to create start-ups. Period. While executives and managers who work for large companies abroad can transfer to a company in the U.S. on an L-1 visa and then obtain a green card, not so for entrepreneurs. Talented chefs of distinction can come to the U.S. to work for a restaurant on O-1 visas; professors and researchers can work here on professional H-1B visas and then obtain their green cards; and even performers can come to the U.S. to perform on special P visas. Even perhaps the most relevant nonimmigrant visa for entrepreneurs – E treaty trader or investor visas – is only available to those who are from specific countries.

Second, those existing visa categories that could be used for entrepreneurs often are not viable, because adjudicators apply regulatory standards and agency interpretations so narrowly that few individual entrepreneurs can qualify. For example, an entrepreneur who seeks to open a new U.S. branch office of her foreign-based company in order to obtain an L-1 visa must spend funds on renting an actual office for a year and buying elaborate equipment that normally is unnecessary to effectively start and operate her business. Obtaining green cards for entrepreneurs is even more complex and difficult. For example, criteria for the national interest waiver (NIW) green card category, a category that could be used for entrepreneurs, are interpreted narrowly.  Moreover, they require a direct connection between the business and very precise, articulated U.S. national interests as well as the individual’s proven track record of influencing his industry. The latter standards are neither in the law nor in regulations. Even just an expansion of USCIS’s 15-day premium processing adjudication program to NIW cases would go a long way towards providing predictability and thus attracting potential entrepreneurs who seek to attempt an NIW filing.

In a recent White House blog about the EIR initiative, the White House states that President Obama supports congressional action to create a “start-up visa” designed specifically for immigrant entrepreneurs, as part of his vision for a “21st Century immigration system”.  That same blog states:

“President Obama is committed to attracting the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs to start the next great companies here in the United States, and Entrepreneur Pathways is an important and concrete next step to facilitating that. . . .[I]magine that an entrepreneur from another country participates in a startup mentorship program in the United States, raises a first round of funding from investors, and wants to stay here to grow the company and hire more people.”

Sounds great, but we ask, how?

Comment » | Immigration reform

What President Obama’s 71% of the Latino Vote Means for Immigration: Immediate Prospects for Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

December 21st, 2012

Almost immediately after President Obama’s re-election on November 6, 2012, the issue of immigration and the Latino vote dominated the news, and the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform rekindled.

National Journal Editorial Director Ron Brownstein recently described the election results and the politics of immigration this way:

“President Obama’s reelection doesn’t guarantee a breakthrough in the long stalemate over immigration reform. But it did instantly invert the debate.  Since the collapse of a bipartisan immigration-reform effort in 2007, Democrats have divided over the issue while Republicans have remained in lockstep, particularly in opposition to any plan that included a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. Now it’s the reverse.”

He added:  “Democrats are talking confidently about forcing the issue in 2013, while Republicans are fracturing. For the first time since George W. Bush’s presidency, a genuine debate over immigration is emerging within the GOP, with advocates of comprehensive reform regaining their voices. . . .”

While some who dominate the GOP still say the party should oppose any proposal that includes legalizing undocumented immigrants and that reform efforts should start by taking only very small steps, now other voices in the GOP are arguing for comprehensive change.

It is against this election backdrop that in early December a national coalition of leaders from across the political spectrum and representing dozens of religious, law enforcement, and business leaders (including the likes of AOL founder Steve Case) gathered in Washington to tell the Administration and Congress that there is a new consensus on immigrants and America. Their message is: common sense immigration reform must be a priority for 2013, our broken immigration system must be fixed, and a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million foreign nationals who contribute to our communities and our economy must be included in the debate. The gathering, “Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America,” was organized by the pro-immigration National Immigration Forum.

Members of Congress are heeding the call. A bipartisan group of eight leading members of the Senate, four Democrats and four Republicans, have been meeting in recent weeks to discuss common ground on immigration. The working group members are Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). (Flake is moving to the Senate from the House of Representatives.)

At least one religious coalition is urging the introduction of comprehensive immigration legislation within 92 days of the start of Obama’s second term, choosing that number because a biblical word for immigrants, or “strangers,” appears 92 times in the Old Testament and 92 symbolizes the importance of protecting the stranger.

According to insiders, however, a framework for immigration reform is expected in January. The framework is expected to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented foreign nationals and additional work enforcement provisions, as well as a whole host of other provisions, ranging from increasing nonimmigrant and immigrant visa numbers to eliminating the “three- and ten-year” bars. A bill is expected to be introduced in the Democrat-led Senate in the spring of 2013, followed by hearings. Legislation that is introduced in the Senate will need at least a handful of Republican votes to advance to the House, which could happen in the fall.

Some conservatives who favor comprehensive immigration reform argue that a Republican partnership with President Obama means politically that they can claim a share of the authorship just as the Republican Congress did when it joined with President Clinton to restructure welfare. Conversely, they say, letting the Democrats and President Obama complete reform without real Republican support helps the Democrats further label the GOP as the anti-immigrant party to its longer-term detriment.

While supporting a pathway to citizenship will not guarantee Hispanic votes for Republicans next election, many believe that if the Republicans block comprehensive reform, they risk alienating Hispanics further. And, by embracing reform they can take immigration off the table and engage Latinos – and Asians too – on other issues.  In any event, the 2012 presidential election results have forced the GOP to question their message to newer Americans, many of whom heard Mitt Romney’s call for “self-deportation” as extremely offensive and synonymous with a call for them to start packing their bags.

Immigration reform alone probably will not be sufficient to significantly improve the GOP’s standing with Hispanics. But, it is an important and necessary first step.  More importantly, it is good for America.

Stay tuned. . . .

Comment » | Immigration reform

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