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On June 22, 2016, a settlement agreement between Macy’s and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) was formalized pertaining to discrimination of non-U.S. citizens. The matter began back in October 2015, when at least five employees notified OSC of their complaints against Macy’s. The employees, all non-U.S. citizens, were required to produce documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a condition of employment during the employment eligibility verification process, despite the employees already having satisfied the federal Form I-9 requirements with alternate documentation. Additionally, during the investigation it was discovered that Macy’s did not require U.S. citizen employees to produce specific documents for verification.
 
During the Form I-9 completion process, an employer cannot require an employee to produce specific documentation, no matter their immigration or citizenship status. The employee is permitted to choose any document or combination of documents specified in the “Lists of Acceptable Documents” attached to the Form I-9. If an employee produces acceptable documents, the employer cannot request additional documents to verify employment eligibility, so long as the documents appear genuine on their face.
 
As Macy’s did not follow this protocol, OSC concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that Macy’s committed citizenship status discrimination. As part of its agreement with OSC, Macy’s is now required, amongst other stipulations, to 1) pay back wages to at least one of the employees; 2) pay a civil penalty of $8,700 to the U.S. Treasury; 3) submit information on all Forms I-9 completed during the OSC-determined reporting period to OSC for review; 4) provide Form I-9 training to all Human Resources personnel at its offending location(s) and test them on their knowledge to assess whether further training is required; and 5) revise its internal policies related to discrimination and have them reviewed by OSC. Macy’s essentially remains under OSC scrutiny for the foreseeable future. The new requirements are above and beyond what is normally required for employers, which goes to show how certain form errors can result in major hurdles for an organization.
 
The Macy’s case is an example of how the actions of Human Resources personnel related to the Form I-9 verification process can affect the entire organization. If you do not want to find your organization under the close watch of the government, you need to ensure that all individuals responsible for Form I-9 completion have thorough knowledge and solid understanding of the process’ requirements and limitations.
 
GoffWilson offers personalized Form I-9 training depending on an organization’s needs. On our website, you can find a downloadable I-9 Retention Worksheet, Completion Timeline, Acceptable Document List, and more by clicking here. Or contact our office today for more I-9 information. We are here to help!

As we have discussed in this blawg repeatedly, the highly skilled professionals working under an H-1B Visa are a valuable resource for any company. However, employees on H-1B visas are also subject to different rules and restrictions than other US employees. It’s imperative that employers know and follow the law in matters regarding employees on an H-1B visa, or they may face having to pay back wages and legal fees while enduring a wave of negative publicity. 
 
Highlighting the importance of following the terms of an H-1B visa, and how costly and error can be, is the recent ruling in DeDios v. Medical Dynamic Systems, Inc. On May 17, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a decision in DeDios v. Medical Dynamic Systems, Inc. which awarded more than $59,000 in back wages and fees to a former employee. The employee, who worked as a Nurse Manager on an H-1B visa for Medical Dynamic Systems, Inc., filed a complaint with the DOL against the company due to its failure to pay the offered salary as stated on the Labor Condition Application (LCA) filed with the H-1B visa petition. Upon approval of the employee’s H-1B visa petition, he presented himself to Medical Dynamic Systems as available to work. However, due to a lack of projects, Medical Dynamic Systems did not place him at a healthcare worksite and kept him waiting for a placement without pay, a scenario commonly known as “benching.”
 
When an employer sponsors an employee for an H-1B visa petition, the accompanying LCA lists the offered salary, a minimum number of hours to be worked, and the work location. Under regulations, an employer is responsible for paying the H-1B worker the offered salary outlined in the LCA and providing the promised employment. “Benching” an employee is not permitted, and can lead to employers having to pay back wages and cover legal fees. If the employee presents himself/herself to an employer as available to work under a valid LCA and H-1B, the employment period begins and the employer is responsible for paying the employee the offered wage.
 
If your company currently employs H-1B workers and you are not paying them the full salary promised under the LCA and H-1B, the employees could file a complaint with the DOL for back wages, potentially resulting in hefty costs for your organization. Whether the employee is a healthcare employee waiting for their next facility assignment, an IT worker waiting for their next client project, or an in-house employee, “benching” is not permitted. You must pay the offered salary to the employee and provide work as promised in the LCA and H-1B petition.
 
Concerned over potential back wage issues? Not sure if your business model is causing you to unintentionally “bench” employees? GoffWilson is here to help! With over 30 years’ experience in Immigration Law and an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the H-1B visa, we've helped numerous employers and employees navigate the complexities of the H-1B visa. Click here to contact our office for assistance. Immigration is what we do!

The last few months at GoffWilson have been busy, from the H-1B visa filing frenzy to attending some of our favorite events, such as the Granite State Human Resource Conference, to hosting our own events, like the very popular I-9 and E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know 2016. Throughout it all, we have devoted time to increasing our social media presence to bring our clients and followers the most relevant, insightful, inspiring, and helpful stories from across the web that relate to immigration and immigrants. Of course, if your schedule is like ours, keeping up with every post can be challenging, so here are our five most popular stories from the last month. 
 
Here’s Everyone Who’s Immigrated to the U.S. Since 1820, an incredible animated map from Metrocosm details where immigrants have come to the United States from since 1820, has been very popular. If you haven’t seen this map yet, click on it now! It’s well worth the 30 seconds. 
 
Getting a large number of clicks this month has been our YouTube video GoffWilson Attorneys Help Global Employer Land Top Engineers. This video details the success we’ve had helping KBACE Technologies fill critical engineering roles through the H-1B Visa program. At GoffWilson, we love hearing how we’ve helped organizations and people navigate the immigration system. If you think GoffWilson can assist you like we assisted KBACE Technologies, contact us here
 
The incredible piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, Chasing Dreams and Dollars: India and the H-1B Visa, has garnered lots of attention through our various social outlets over the past month. This in-depth article examines everything from the increasing demand for H-1B visas in the United States to the effort and thought that Indians put into pursuing one and the lasting effects on those lucky enough to secure a coveted H-1B visa. With extensive knowledge and experience working with the H-1B visa, GoffWilson are the go-to immigration lawyers for those looking to navigate the complexities of the H-1B visa. 
 
We shared the blog post What You Need to Know About Form I-9 and E-Verify from HiredRight leading up to our seminar I-9 and E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know 2016. This post clearly details the differences between Form I-9 and E-Verify while listing the acceptable forms of supporting documentation. Click here to read our Blawg on I-9 compliance and the various ways GoffWilson can help put your organization on the path to I-9 compliance. 
 
The H-1B visa lottery is an exciting and stressful time for individuals and organizations alike. With hopes, plans, and the future riding on luck in the lottery, many are turning to alternatives to the competitive and capped H-1B visa. In our Blawg post Exploring Alternatives to the H-1B Visa, we examined some of the different ways to avoid the H-1B visa lottery.  
 
We love interacting with our fans on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn, if you're not following us, you should start! We love interacting with our clients and followers, so please keep “liking,” clicking, sharing, and commenting on what you see from GoffWilson, and we’ll keep working to bring you the latest news, stories, articles, and immigrant/immigration-related content from around the web. 

Are you ready for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit of your I-9s? You should be, as the number of I-9 audits ICE is conducting is on the rise. It can be random or it could be based upon a complaint filed by a disgruntled employee.  Regardless of the type, size, or location of your business, you may be called upon to produce your employees’ I-9s and supporting documentation for review. With hefty fines for non-compliance, it’s incumbent on businesses to prepare for this eventuality. Be sure you are on solid ground for employment eligibility verification. If called upon, could you produce these documents for every employee for review by ICE?
  • I-9 Forms for active and terminated employees that are required to be retained
  • Public Access folder for any employee in H status that includes the prevailing wage information and benefits package
  • A copy of the signed Labor Condition Application for each location the H employee works
  • Payroll records
  • Business information such as EIN#, owner’s names, other sites, and the number of H visa employees
  • The Audit Files for any employee for whom resident alien status application has been made
Having concluded our incredibly popular I-9 and E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know 2016 seminar earlier this week, we were reminded of how much there is to comprehend about the intricacies of this very common, yet very important, form. The great thing about our I-9 seminar is that it allows us to teach best practices, deliver up-to-date information on Form I-9, and help people feel comfortable working with a form that every single employee must fill out. Even better is that, before leaving, we walk everyone through the process of filling out a sample I-9 from beginning to end while answering any questions that might pop up along the way, leaving attendees feeling confident working with the form and prepared in case called upon for inspection.
 
If you missed our I-9 seminar, don’t worry! Providing in-house compliance training for Managers and Human Resource staff is a popular service we provide. Another popular service that we offer is an internal I-9 audit. Our I-9 audit gives us and you a chance to review your compliance, and help with corrective measures. Think you’re compliant? Our experience tells us that you’re probably not. In fact, the overwhelming majority of I-9s we audit contain mistakes.  
 
At GoffWilson, we have a long and reputable history with Form I-9 and have helped many businesses put the processes in place, fix errors, and develop a culture of I-9 compliance. If you have concerns about how your business handles Form I-9, contact us here and discover how we can help you feel confident in the case of an audit.
 


Can you confidently answer these questions?


  • When is the latest a person can fill out a Form I-9?
  • How long am I required to keep Form I-9’s on file for terminated employees?
  • Am I supposed to be using the Form I-9 with the expiration date of 3/31/16?
  • Can I use the Spanish Form I-9 for my Spanish speaking employees? 
  • Can I tell the employee what documents I accept for identification verification?

If you were unsure of the answers to any of the questions above, it’s time for an I-9 refresher. Lucky for you, our incredibly popular seminar Form I-9 & E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know for 2016 is a little less than a week away, and we still have a few coveted spots available! Click here to register.   
 
Taking place Tuesday, May 17, from 8am to noon at the Delta Dental Auditorium in Concord, NH, this in-demand seminar provides a great opportunity to get up-to-date information on Form I-9 and E-Verify, will have you feeling more comfortable working with Form I-9, and will put your business on the path to I-9 compliance. You’ll also leave with our proprietary I-9 workbook to serve as your go-to reference manual following the seminar.   
 
Bonus! As an approved HRCI provider and a SHRM preferred provider, you will earn three HRCI continuing education hours and/or SHRM professional development credits for completing Form I-9 & E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know for 2016 training.
 
Bonus! Bonus! The seminar includes a delicious complimentary breakfast, so come early and enjoy. 
This sought-after seminar always fills up fast—don’t wait too long before registering here!


Earlier this week, some employers and their employees received very good news while many others received disappointing news as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that they’ve completed data entry for all of the selected Lottery winners of the H-1B cap-subject petitions. If you haven’t heard back, don’t panic just yet as we’ll continue receiving receipts over the next week. As employers wait in limbo before addressing potential staffing needs, there are alternative pathways to employment of foreigners that don’t require an H-1B Visa, if they qualify. Below are some of the other visa options available to businesses and individuals.
 
L-1 Visa
L-1 visas allow organizations in the U.S. with foreign affiliates to transfer employees who have previously worked in a foreign country to the U.S. Whether for work in a commonly held company, the L-1 visa is reserved for either managers and executives or employees with “specialized knowledge” but, unlike H-1B, it does not have a degree requirement. The L-1 visa requires that the employee has worked for the foreign organization for a continuous year during the last three years of employment.
 
J-1 Visa
The J-1 visa is designed to foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural and educational exchange. The J-1 visa allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. as “exchange visitors,” and is popular among business trainees, teachers, scholars, and medical professionals. J-1 visas allow the employee into the U.S. while in a training capacity within their given field.  
 
O Visa
Available to people of extraordinary ability, the O visa is used to cover employees in a wide variety of fields. Artists, athletes, and entertainers along with scientists, researchers, teachers, and business people are all capable of receiving an O visa. For a foreign national to qualify for an O visa, the petitioning employer must be able to establish the person’s extraordinary ability, and the recipient must continue to work in their recognized field while in the U.S.
 
F-1 Visa
While F-1 visas are designed to allow foreign students to enter the U.S. to study, they also provide, following graduation, Optional Practical Training (OPT) for one year in which graduating students can work in the U.S. Students graduating with degrees in qualifying science, technology, engineering, and math fields can qualify for a STEM OPT extension allowing them to work in the U.S. for an additional two years.
 
These are just some of the alternate ways foreign nationals can qualify for work in the U.S. outside of the H-1B program. The visa types listed above have many more details to consider and we invite your inquiry regarding any of them. 
 
If you found yourself unlucky in the H-1B lottery this year, there are also institutions that are exempt from the H-cap (click here to find out more). Immigration is full of options, (such as an H-3 training visa or a B-1 visa in lieu of H) and while many times the obvious path is blocked, there are creative routes to get people where they need to be. At GoffWilson, we’ve been assisting employers and helping foreigners achieve their dreams with assistance in visa processing. We’ve established a reputation for delivering professional and personal service that speaks directly to the needs of our clients. If you think an alternative to an H-1B Visa is worth exploring for your organization, contact us here and we’ll be happy to discuss and walk you through the next steps of the visa process. It’s what we do!
 

For the fourth consecutive year, the H-1B cap has been reached within the first 5 business days of April. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) having received 236,000 petitions this year, with only 85,000 to be selected. For some, the increased interest in working in the United States is a sign of the country’s robust economy, the alluring nature of its companies, and the solidifying of its reputation as an incubator of innovation. For others, the H-1B process is a frustrating hurdle to overcome in their pursuit of both professional and personal development. H-1B hopefuls are left wondering why a country in desperate need of workers with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills would shut the door on many valuable potential employees, while employers find themselves in limbo, waiting to see if vital positions will be able to be filled through the H-1B program.

On March 31, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) released some interesting statistics regarding H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2016. While many anxiously await their results in the H-1B lottery, now is an opportune time to take a closer look at these statistics, and to find out where in the country the majority of H-1B visas are being distributed, in what professions, and to what companies.

Top 5 States for H-1B Employment

1. California is home to 157,073 people on H-1B visas, representing 19% of the available visas
2. Texas is home to 83,945 people on H-1B visas, representing 10.2% of available visas
3. New York is home to 69,383 people on H-1B visas, representing 8.4% of available visas
4. New Jersey is home to 56,635 people on H-1B visas, representing 6.9% of available visas
5. Pennsylvania is home to 51,919 people, representing 6.3% of available visas

Top 5 Positions for H-1B Visas

1. Computer systems analysts account for 207,163 positions, representing 25.1% of awarded H-1B visas
2. Software application developers account for 120,413 positions, representing 14.6% of awarded H-1B visas
3. Computer programmers account for 80,522 positions, representing 9.8% of awarded H-1B visas
4. All other computer occupations account for 65,116 positions, representing 7.9% of awarded H-1B visas
5. Software developers account for 48,047 positions, representing 5.8% of awarded visas

Top 5 H-1B Employers

1. Deloitte Consulting, LLP employs 79,291 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 9.6% of awarded visas
2. Cognizant Technology Solutions U.S. Corp. employs 64,118 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 7.8% of awarded visas
3. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP employs 27,340 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 3.3% of awarded visas
4. Wipro Limited employs 26,716 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 3.3% of awarded visas
5. Apple, Inc. employs 20,523 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 2.5 % of awarded visas

At GoffWilson, we too are eager to learn the results of our clients in the H-1B lottery, and we hope every single one of them is lucky this year. Sadly, the reality is that some of them won’t be lucky, but the good news is that there’s more than one path toward a H-1B visa (click here to learn about some of the potential alternate pathways). We at GoffWilson pride ourselves on our specialized and personalized service that deals directly with the unique concerns of our clients, and with over 30 years experience in immigration law we understand the ins and outs of the H-1B visa and the H-1B visa process. If you feel you may qualify for a cap exempt H-1B visa, and are interested in exploring the avenue further, contact us here. We’d be happy to help!

We are happy to announce that we have just added our popular seminar Form I-9 & E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know for 2016 to our list spring events. This seminar will take place Tuesday, May 17, from 8am to noon at the Delta Dental Auditorium in Concord, NH, and presents a great hands-on opportunity for executives and HR personnel to ensure they are up to date with the policies and procedures involving I-9 and E-Verify.
 
This in-demand seminar has a history of selling out and space is limited. Register here to secure your spot at one of our most popular events of the year. Not convinced if this seminar is right for you? Here are some great reasons to register today! 
  • You want to know the latest trends and best practices in I-9
  • You want to learn about the latest revisions and proposed changes to E-Verify
  • You simply feel that it's time for a refresher
  • You want to know the most common mistakes made when filling out I-9s so you can avoid them—better yet, you want to learn how to correct the errors
  • You want to find out how to deal with potential challenges such as mergers, remote hires, or federal contracts 
What else to expect: 
  • To receive credit. As an approved HRCI provider and a SHRM preferred provider, you will earn three HRCI continuing education hours and/or SHRM professional development credits for completing the training
  • To receive a copy of our proprietary I-9 workbook to serve as your go-to reference manual following the seminar
  • To leave knowing more about I-9 and E-Verify, and to feel more comfortable working with them
  • To receive a delicious complimentary breakfast 
Interested in attending now? Click here. If we still haven’t convinced you why you should be attending the seminar, swing by our booth at the Granite State Human Resource Conference on April 26-27 at the Radisson in Manchester, NH, and we'll convince you in person.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made news this week with their disclosure that they had created and been operating a fake college called the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ) in an office building in Cranford, New Jersey. Offering no classes, the purported purpose of the university was to illegally allow foreign students to maintain their visas and stay in the U.S. The true nature of the college however was a means for the DHS to get a better understanding of the network that supports visa fraud, while simultaneously catching visa fraud practitioners.

With an improving economy, a limited amount of visas available, and increased competition to pursue higher education in the U.S., there will be more brokers, agencies, and people willing to look for ways around the established immigration system, and colleges and universities will be wise to protect themselves from students with fraudulent visas. As visas get more valuable, so does the technology, skill, and art that comes with falsifying them. In fact, according to a New York Times article about the UNNJ sting operation, multiple high-tech companies and financial institutions unknowingly hired applicants with fraudulent visas from the UNNJ. If prestigious institutions with backgrounds in employing foreign-born workers were duped, is it possible your institution could be too?

A story like the one about the UNNJ serves as a reminder that colleges and institutions need to be diligent in their processing of international students. While International Student and Scholar Offices (ISSO) and Designated School Officials (DSO) are adept at handling many of the day-to-day needs of international students, there is an enormous benefit to supporting them with people trained in and familiar with the many complexities of immigration law. GoffWilson has been practicing immigration law for over 30 years, and has experience ensuring colleges and universities remain Student Exchange and Visitors Information System (SEVIS) compliant.

A SEVIS file review is a popular service that we provide to colleges and universities, as SEVIS reporting can be complex and daunting in its own right. SEVIS is extremely unforgiving of mistakes, with penalties for giving false or misleading information as severe as the revoking of an institution's ability to sponsor future international students—a potentially devastating penalty with the increasingly important role international students are playing in today’s U.S. institutions of higher education.

While institutions of higher ed should take a big-picture approach to ensuring SEVIS compliance, issues arise to even the best prepared people. GoffWilson has a well-deserved reputation for delivering personal service that speaks to the needs of the individual. If one of your university or college students finds themselves with immigration issues, we’re here to help. GoffWilson is accomplished in negotiating the intricacies of immigration law, and can help ensure that issues are resolved while keeping in mind what’s best for the individual and university alike. SEVIS is no less severe with individuals than it is with universities, with punishments as harsh as deportation.

If you are concerned about the status of your international students, curious how you can better protect yourself from visa fraud, or feel like a SEVIS review will help you sleep better at night, contact GoffWilson here and let us know how we can help.

On April 1st, the United States Citizenship and Immigration and Services (USCIS) began accepting H-1B petitions for the fiscal year of 2017, with the congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas set at 65,000. In addition, there is an exemption from the cap for the first 20,000 petitioners who hold a Master's Degree or higher—making a total of 85,000 visas available. Like every year, the demand for an H-1B visa is very high, and the USCIS anticipates receiving more than the 65,000 petitions allowed within the first five business days of this year’s program (they received 235,000 petitions last year). The USCIS will notify the public when the cap is met, and if the agency receives an excess of 65,000 petitions during the first five business days, they will use a computer-generated lottery system to determine who is will be chosen to have the H-1B visas application processed.

With only a five-day window appearing annually, competition and anxiety increases yearly over valuable H-1B visas. Although it may seem that getting lucky in the H-1B visa lottery is the only path to employment for foreigners in highly skilled and highly specialized fields, there are some institutions that aren’t subject to the H-cap for the lottery. Furthermore, these cap-exempt employers also have the ability to sponsor an H-1B applicant at any time of year. The result of the cap exemptions is an increase in the total number of H-1B visas distributed, and a clearer pathway that does not rely on luck!

With a few exceptions, there are three types of institutions that are exempt from the H-1B cap:

1. Institutions of higher education that meet the United States code definition are the first H-cap exempt institutions.
2. The second exemption is for related and affiliated nonprofit entities of an institution of higher education. This exemption is most commonly applied to teaching hospitals.
3. Lastly, research organizations where that is either a nonprofit or part of the federal government, and is engaged in basic or applied research furthering the knowledge on a particular subject and ways to apply that knowledge to commercial pursuits.

While these are the three main employers to receive exemption from the H-cap, there are other, less common ways to achieve H-cap exemption. For example, an employer may petition for cap-exempt status if an employee will spend the majority of their time working at a qualifying institution.

With an improving economy, the stakes and competition for H-1B visas has never been higher. If you missed out on petitioning before the April 1 deadline, or would like to explore H-1B exempt institutions to see if you qualify for a visa through those channels, please contact us here. With over 30 years of experience, GoffWilson has an incredible depth of understanding of the ins and outs of the H-visa process and can help both employers and employees navigate the complexities of an H-visa exemption to ensure you make the best decisions for your personal situation in the pursuit of an H-1B visa. It’s what we do!
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