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President Donald Trump in 2017 began to follow through on many of the promises he made regarding employment-based immigration during his successful election campaign. Executive actions issued during the year signaled his intent to reduce the flow of foreign talent into the United States by reforming employment visa programs, vetting immigrant workers more thoroughly and shifting toward stricter workplace enforcement.
The White House also moved to eliminate several Obama-era programs, regulations and practices—most notably the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—and expressed support for aligning the U.S. immigration system toward prioritizing the highest-educated, skilled and paid workers.
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Here are the top five most-read articles on business immigration from SHRM Online in 2017:
President Trump Signs 'Hire American' Executive Order
The president signed the Buy American, Hire American executive order in April, directing federal agencies to implement the rhetoric of his election campaign. The order calls for a review of the H-1B visa program for skilled workers, with the goal of reforming the program. This has already led to a significant increase in requests for evidence and denials of visa petitions from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In addition, USCIS has indicated it will double site visits in 2018, while sister agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it will more than quadruple workplace inspections in the new year.
Trump's administration is also reportedly looking to reduce or eliminate certain categories of the J-1 visa, including international internships, and the H-4 visa for spouses of H-1B workers.
Travel Ban Leaves Employers, Workers in Limbo
The legal saga over Trump's series of executive orders restricting immigration from certain countries has created confusion and uncertainty for employers and the foreign nationals they employ. In the latest development, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an injunction against the president's executive order. However, the decision issued Dec. 22 by the appeals court will have no immediate effect because of a Supreme Court ruling issued Dec. 4 allowing the administration to fully implement the ban as legal challenges are heard.
Employment Verification Discrimination Changes Take Effect
Employers found themselves more exposed to discrimination charges based on national origin or citizenship during the employment verification process after a new regulation went into effect in January. The regulation clarified that treating a worker differently when requesting documents during the employment verification process, regardless of whether the intent is to harm or help, will be prohibited. Prior to the revision, charges against employers could not be pursued if hiring practices were considered discriminatory but not carried out with intent to harm. The rule also expanded the prohibition beyond the I-9 process to E-Verify and even to onboarding.
Preparing for an I-9 Compliance Audit
Companies need to stay on top of I-9 compliance, especially after the 2017 release of a new version of the form in an atmosphere of increased enforcement. Employers were required to use the new version of the Form I-9 (dated 07/17/17) beginning Sept. 18.
H-1B Visa Premium Processing Suspended for Six Months
Employers were left without the option of using the government's expedited processing program for H-1B visa cases from April through September. The premium processing option allows employers to pay an additional $1,225 filing fee to USCIS in return for a guarantee that the agency will issue a decision on the case within 15 calendar days. That's an advantage for employers seeking certainty when planning their workforce needs for the coming year.
The suspension delayed adjudication of H-1B cap-subject cases filed for fiscal year 2018, as well as H-1B petitions that are exempt from the annual quota, like extensions of stay, and change-of-employer requests.
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