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USCIS issues new policy eliminating power of attorney signatures
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Employers will no longer be able to ask outside counsel to sign immigration applications and petitions on behalf of the company, according to a new policy that takes effect March 17.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Feb. 16 that the agency will no longer accept power of attorney signatures. Forms filed by outside counsel or other immigration preparers must be signed by an authorized employee of the petitioning organization.
Of particular concern to large employers is that the new policy will apply to the upcoming H-1B cap season, which begins April 2.
"This means a lot more busywork for employers," said Justin Storch, manager of agency liaison at the Council for Global Immigration, an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management. "It's become a common practice among large employers to use power of attorney. Above a certain number of filings, it just makes sense to use it if it's available."
As a result of the policy change, employers and their immigration preparers will have to build in more time for documents to be signed by an authorized employee and returned to outside counsel for filing. "Depending on who is authorized within the organization to sign petitions, you may have one person signing over a thousand of them," Storch said. "It also creates logistical problems because if you're working with attorneys, you have to send documents back and forth through the mail and work with their deadlines, all while the five-day H-1B cap window is looming."
The new guidance supersedes a 2016 policy that permitted employers to authorize their outside immigration counsel or other outside representatives to sign petitions and applications under a power of attorney. The agency said it reversed the policy because power of attorney signatures resulted in inconsistent treatment of petitions and made litigating or prosecuting immigration fraud more difficult.
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A valid signature does not need to be in cursive, in English or legible and may be abbreviated if that is how the individual normally signs his or her name. USCIS will not accept signatures created by a typewriter, word processor, stamp, auto-pen or similar device and may reject a form submitted with an improper signature instead of offering the opportunity to fix it.
The agency said it will address requirements for electronic signatures in future guidance.
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