The 5 Most-Read Business Immigration Stories of 2018

 

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer December 21, 2018
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​In the context of employment-related immigration, the overriding theme of the year was the change in how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) analyzes and processes applications and petitions for foreign national workers, resulting in significant increases in requests for evidence and denials.   

Experts say that new policy changes, in addition to a more-restrictive approach to adjudications, will have a chilling effect on employers hiring foreign talent in the new year. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was also busy in 2018, ramping up worksite enforcement and Form I-9 audits.

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Here are SHRM Online's five most-read articles on business immigration in 2018:

No. 1: USCIS Is Denying More Employment-Related Immigration Filings This Year


Data confirm what many employers had been reporting anecdotally: Requests for evidence and denials for employment-related immigration filings have risen considerably since President Donald Trump issued the Buy American and Hire American executive order in April 2017.

No. 2: ICE Plans Surge of I-9 Audits


Employers were put on notice in May 2018 when ICE officials publicized plans for a nationwide increase of Form I-9 audits in the summer. The agency said it would focus on criminal cases against employers and deporting employees who are in the country illegally.

Worksite immigration-enforcement investigations rose by over 300 percent in fiscal year 2018 from the previous year, and the agency set 10-year highs for the number of I-9 audits conducted and criminal charges filed.

No. 3: USCIS Restricts Third-Party Placement of STEM OPT Students


Early in the year, USCIS made a change on its website communicating new restrictions on assigning student workers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) program to third-party client sites.

The agency clarified in August that STEM OPT participants may engage in work at third-party sites as long as all training obligations are met, including the requirement that employers maintain a bona fide employer/employee relationship with students.

No. 4: H-1B Premium Processing Suspended Until February 2019


The suspension of the government's expedited processing program for H-1B visa cases was extended to Feb. 19, 2019, and expanded to include additional types of H-1B petitions.

USCIS originally suspended premium processing for H-1B fiscal year 2019 cap-subject applicants in April and planned to resume in September.

Under the expedited service, H-1B petition processing times are shortened from an average of six months to 15 calendar days for an extra fee, which was increased to $1,410 in October.

No. 5: What Employers Need to Know About the J-1 Visa for Interns and Trainees


The fate of the J-1 visa categories for interns and trainees is uncertain as the year draws to a close. The Trump administration has indicated that it may eliminate the categories that thousands of U.S. employers use for international talent pipelining, training and onboarding, or it may impose new requirements on employers using the program.

This two-part article outlines a few program basics, including employer responsibilities when sponsoring J-1 trainees and interns and how to work with an outside sponsoring organization.

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