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Known Employer to last up to one year
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Employers that regularly hire foreign workers are one step closer to a quicker hiring process, similar to the popular TSA Pre-Check expedited security screenings for frequent flyers used at the nation’s airports.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced March 4 that it’s moving forward with testing a program to preapprove employers that frequently hire foreign workers, saving time and paperwork for both the employers and the government.
Dubbed “Known Employer,” the program draws on ideas long advocated by the Society for Human Resource Management and its affiliate, the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI).
CFGI Executive Director Lynn Shotwell first testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the subject in May 1999. “It had a different name then, but the concept is still the same 17 years later,” she said. “Essentially, when an employer files a petition, there’s certain information it files over and over again. And it would save resources for both the employer and the government if some of that basic information was preapproved upfront.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which will administer the program, explained that by modifying the process used to review an employer’s eligibility to sponsor workers under certain employment-based classifications, the program is expected to reduce paperwork, costs and delays and to promote consistency in the adjudication of petitions and applications.
This is a welcome development for corporate immigration and mobility professionals like Denise Rahmani, director of U.S. immigration for software firm Oracle. “This represents a more practical and streamlined approach for submitting employer support documentation with certain petitions,” she said. “Employers and employees will benefit from the efficiencies of the program, including cost and time savings.”
Rahmani said she hopes a formal program for widespread use among employers will be implemented as a result of the pilot.
Currently, employers must provide the same information about their corporate structure and financial health every time they apply to secure a visa for a foreign worker.
As Shotwell explained, there are basically three parts to any immigration application:
Over time, she added, the employer community would like to get to a place where the first and second pieces are preapproved.
Under the Known Employer pilot, up to nine preselected employers will electronically submit documents relating to the company’s corporate structure, operations and financial health just once, to be stored by the agency.
Participating employers will also be asked to complete and upload Form I-950, Application for Predetermination under Known Employer Program.
USCIS officers will review and predetermine whether a prospective employer has met certain requirements relating to the visa classifications, and if the agency approves the employer’s predetermination request, the employer may then file petitions or applications for individual employees without needing to resubmit company information with each petition or application.
Employers will still have to explain why they need to hire the worker and provide details about the job for each petition, but they wouldn’t have to start over again each time.
The program reminded Wilson of the Blanket L-1 visa process that companies use to approve their corporate relationships for individual L-1 filings. “With the Blanket L-1 approval, companies no longer need to provide the mountain of materials on the company and requisite corporate relationships,” he said. “Not only is the filing streamlined, the officer adjudicating the Blanket L-1 filing has fewer issues to analyze on each individual case.”
Preapproving certain employer and job information would also cut down on inconsistent adjudications. “When a company addresses a Request for Evidence [RFE] for one filing, to date it does not mean that issue is resolved for future filings as well,” Wilson said. “The company may still receive RFEs and scrutiny on an issue that has already been addressed and resolved through prior filings.”
Eligible Visa Classifications
The pilot program will cover four temporary-worker visa classifications and two employer-based immigrant classifications. These include the:
Employers participating in the pilot program will not incur any additional fees, and the pilot is scheduled to last for one year. So far, five companies have been selected for the pilot: Citigroup Inc., Ernst & Young LLP, Kiewit Corp., Schaeffler Group USA Inc. and Siemens Corp. If the pilot is a success, the DHS plans to expand the program to all eligible employers.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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