The consequences of a poorly managed immigration process
In addition to the myriad of global challenges that impact the hiring of international employees, the pandemic has also significantly impacted the immigration process for U.S. companies. It’s critical for HR to have a good reporting structure in place to manage complex immigration rules.
Failure to have accurate, “clean” data can result in fines, loss of employment for employees, and the possible resulting cancellation of their visas, as well as loss of valuable talent for the employer. Employers may not realize that it can also lead to civil or criminal fines or penalties in some cases.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed American workers about immigration processes. The results showed that 65% of those surveyed believed that the U.S. will lose highly skilled workers to other countries if the U.S. doesn’t modernize its employment-based immigration system.
Good news – here are some of the key data points that you can track to manage your employees’ immigration status.
Case Management and Fees
- Number of international employees - Without adequate tracking, you may not have current information available about the number of international employees you have at any given time. With the complexities of the current immigration process, you risk missing critical data.
- Max out dates - If any of your employees hold non-immigrant visas, max-out dates are critical to track. They’re initially valid for three years but can be extended to a maximum of six years. Any inaccuracy in reporting this information can result in fines or delays in the process.
- Attorney Fees - Depending on the complexity of your immigration program, your vendor might have a complex billing schedule. Some firms charge based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to: immigration case type, RFEs, additional case questions, compliance audits, or (more rarely seen with immigration firms) hourly billing.
- NIV vs. Permanent (IV) Status - A non-immigrant visa (NIV) is initially valid for three years and can be extended to six years. Permanent status is granted to a lawful permanent resident with a “green card”. The change from NIV to permanent status is a big one. Getting it wrong could mean the difference between your employee getting their green card or getting a notice that they’re in violation of their visa.
- Time left in status - You don’t want to wait for the max-out date to arrive because that means you’re out of time. If you’re tracking how much time is left in your employees’ immigration process, there won’t be any unwelcome surprises.
- Attorney response times - At this point we’ve hopefully stopped multi-threading emails to ask followup questions on particular cases and no longer need to dig for important information, that said, it’s important to continue to focus on areas of improvement. Especially when your employees and your People team are often running at breakneck speeds.
- Addresses - Incorrect or outdated addresses are a red flag to immigration authorities. Addresses must be current and match official documentation to avoid any delays in processing time. Tracking addresses manually is inefficient and could result in legal issues for the employee or the organization.
- Salaries - Pay can change multiple times per year – upon hire, after an initial employment period, at appraisal time, to rectify pay compression issues, or adjustments for change in hours. International employees must also receive prevailing wages that comply with governmental requirements. Multiply those factors by the number of international employees you have, and it becomes difficult to maintain accurate information.
- Public Access Files (PAF)- After a certain amount of time, employers can purge their PAF documents and reduce their risk exposure from a DOL audit. However, during a government audit, if the company hands over PAFs beyond their required time, those documents are now subject for review as well.
- Upcoming travel dates - As a result of increased global unrest, there continues to be increased scrutiny of international travelers entering the U.S. Keeping track of any travel by your international employees will facilitate their re-entry (and return to work) and prevent any potential violations of their visa requirements.
If creating reports about the status of your employee immigration data has been on your wish list for too long, now’s the time to make it happen. A chaotic or non-existent immigration tracking system is not only inefficient and distracting for the employee experience, but also potentially allows big legal and financial issues to hide under a seemingly functional case management process.
Beginning to track these key data points will position you to build an optimized program by moving from a chaotic process to an emerging one that will provide you with the information critical for managing a successful immigration process.