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3 Best Practices for Maintaining Your Public Access File

Bridge Team Member

As an employer of H-1B, H-1B1, or E-3 employees, you are likely quite intentional about your public access file (PAF) internal processes and systems, aware of which documents must be included and how the file should be maintained. But, you may be thinking, there's more to be done.  And you’re right.

Workflows, removal, and routine maintenance are all part of managing a compliant PAF system. With People Teams today driving compliance, growth, employee experience, and culture, adopting and adhering to best practices is what keeps your team differentiated from your competitors.

In this article, we’re going to explore three practices, helping you stay on top of your PAF management requirements while making you audit-ready.

Best Practice #1: Automate Your PAF Process

Automating your PAF process, management, and oversight really should be a requirement, not a best practice. With the immigration landscape being increasingly complex and unwieldy, automation is one prudent, reasonable way to keep your PAF management in check, keeping your company in compliance while also providing a seamless user experience for your team and employees.

Using an HR technology platform specific to immigration can help you capture, process, review, and store all relevant documents in your PAF. Further, this automation technology can help refine your workflows and maintain audit trails, helping you stay audit-ready. 

This comprehensive software keeps your records secure, protecting vital employee and business information during review, access, and storage. Immigration automation software can also identify incomplete or out-of-date documentation while eliminating human errors and omissions, which goes a long way with keeping you compliant.

Best Practice #2: Purge Your Documents After the Retention Period

Although written or digital documentation is critical, you don’t need to keep your documents forever. In fact, after one year from the employment date specified in the Labor Condition Application (LCA), you should delete any computer files and/or shred your paper documents. If you don’t, you could face confusion among your stored documentation, increasing potential liability from the government.

If no international employee was employed under the LCA, you should shred or delete any related documentation after the one-year anniversary of the LCA’s expiration or withdrawal. 

Note, this rule only applies to your PAF files. You might have separate retention rules for files related to your payroll.

Best Practice #3: Conduct Quarterly Audits of Your PAF Management System

With People teams taking a more strategic seat at the company leadership table, you understand the benefits of continued compliance and the expense and frustration associated with non-compliance. Turning your focus to an “audit-ready” position can save you time and money if the Department of Labor comes knocking.

To be continually audit-ready, you should conduct quarterly audits of your PAF management system, making sure you are on top of the federal requirements, as well as your internal policies, procedures, and best practices. 

When preparing for a quarterly audit, here’s a checklist to help you establish PAF maintenance best practices, including items above and beyond the basic PAF documentation requirements:

  • A copy of your payroll, including actual hours worked, rate of pay, and gross earnings received;
  • Each location where work was performed and the period of employment at each location;
  • A copy of (and explanation of) any deductions made from wages, such as salary advances, in addition to any supporting documentation for the deduction request;
  • Copies of any termination notices and other correspondence sent to or received from the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) office;
  • All relevant employment dates, such as entry into the U.S., hire date, termination date, payroll/benefits commencement
  • Create a calendaring tool to identify which documents need to be shredded and/or deleted, and when

In addition to these documents, you’ll want to establish an internal procedure addressing what to do if a DOL agent shows up at your door, inquiring about your public access files. For example, you may only want specific employees interacting with the DOL upon the initial visit. You also will want to call your immigration attorney.

It would be best if you considered making these internal audits part of your annual workflow. For example, calendar reminders for your PAF internal audits. Have one or two employees assigned to the overall management and maintenance of your PAFs. Have a checklist ready in case the DOL shows up. 

Knowing that the Department of Labor may audit you or that the Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) office within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services can stop by your business—unannounced—you want to make sure your PAF process is airtight. Preparation will not only help you assemble all needed documentation for governmental scrutiny but it could also lower or eliminate any penalties. Further, knowing you are audit-ready allows you to keep your stress levels in check while encouraging efficiency and lowered frustration during an audit.

Understanding the value of leveling up your PAF management system not only helps with your compliance but also gives you—and your employees—some peace of mind. As your company continues to hire and your team grows it is also critically important to continue to ensure everyone understands best practices for mitigating compliance risk and that you invest in training all stakeholders to move your immigration program closer to an optimized level for your company.


Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.

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