World Class Compliance Solutions
At Mehlman Barnes LLP, we offer world class services in all aspects of immigration compliance such as employment eligibility verification (i.e., I-9 and E-Verify), Department of Labor (DOL) wage and hour immigration-related investigations, export control, mergers and acquisitions, etc. Clients may also consider retaining Mehlman Barnes LLP to develop corporate immigration policies to streamline the internal immigration process, as well as to protect your company from civil and sometimes even criminal sanctions or penalties.
1Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)
Regardless of the industry, size or structure of your company, the employment eligibility verification or I-9 requirement must be complied with if you have employees and are doing business within the United States. It is a common misconception among employers that if no foreign national workers are employed than there cannot be a violation and that the I-9 requirement may not even apply to them. This could not be farther from the truth.
The employment eligibility verification laws essentially impose a very strict set of requirements that all U.S. employers examine employment eligibility and identity documents provided by employees, regardless of nationality. This examination process is very complicated for employers to administer absent knowledgeable legal counsel. The process is deceiving in that it is much more complicated than it may first appear. Not only does this document exchange between the employer and the employee have to occur within a very limited amount of time measured from the date of hire, but implementing it incorrectly can also raise other significant legal issues such as record keeping violations and employment discrimination claims. Such issues, in the event of an audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), can amount to significant civil and sometimes even criminal sanctions against the employer.
Despite the associated risks, all too often employers attempt to establish an I-9 system absent legal counsel. In an era of heightened enforcement, this can be a very risky practice. At Mehlman Barnes LLP, we can develop customized I-9 compliance programs driven by the needs and resources available to your organization. We will collaborate with you to develop training materials and best practice recommendations as to how your HR teams should go about managing the I-9 process. We can also conduct internal audits of your company to proactively ensure your program’s overall compliance. In addition, we are available to advise on electronic I-9 programs and to vet a specific program for compliance with the regulatory requirements. In the event your company has already been notified by ICE that a government audit has commenced, Mehlman Barnes LLP has the expertise to be able to guide your organization through the daunting process of responding to the many phases of an audit and we will also work to negotiate a reduction in the penalties imposed for any identified violations.
Closely related to the I-9 process, Mehlman Barnes LLP can also answer questions and offer legal expertise in related areas such as use of the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS), enrollment and use of the E-Verify program and IMAGE program, and how to handle Social Security mis-matches.
If your company requires assistance in establishing a compliant I-9 employment verification program, requires assistance in responding to an I-9 audit, or if you have any other questions pertaining to the I-9 employment eligibility requirement or other related areas, contact Mehlman Barnes LLP at our Getting Started page.
2Wage and Hour (DOL Immigration Investigations)
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has been delegated authority to enforce certain provisions of the H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 worker programs. In particular, the WHD’s role is to protect similarly employed U.S. workers from being adversely affected by the employment of nonimmigrant workers, as well as to protect nonimmigrant workers. In order to ensure this objective is met, the WHD has discretion to initiate investigations of H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 employers to ensure that workers are receiving the wages and working under the terms of employment as specified on the Labor Condition Application (LCA) that accompanies the petition when filed with USCIS. WHD may initiate H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3-related investigations as a result of complaints or the agency may self-initiate investigations. Immigration-related violations found during the course of a WHD investigation can potentially leave employers with civil penalties as well as other remedies including payment of back wages to the nonimmigrant worker. Employers can even be barred from access to the H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 programs or other immigrant programs in certain instances depending upon the severity of the violation(s).
If your company employs H-1B, H-1B1, and/or E-3 workers, you are at potential risk for WHD immigration investigations. At Mehlman Barnes LLP, we can audit your LCA records to ensure the DOL’s record keeping requirements are satisfied. We can also assist you in developing best practices to ensure ongoing compliance and efficiency. Moreover, in the event your company has already been notified of an investigation, our team can represent your company in its communications with DOL to ensure that your best interests are protected.
If your company requires assistance either in proactively reviewing your LCA records to ensure compliance with the H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 programs, or if your company has been notified of a WHD investigation, contact Mehlman Barnes LLP at our Getting Started page.
While Mehlman Barnes LLP’s practice focuses solely on immigration matters, we recognize that United States immigration laws do sometimes intersect with federal export control laws governing the release of technology, technical data, or certain information to a foreign national. Export control (and more specifically deemed export licensing) is not a new process. However, prior to the Department of Commerce’s coordination with the USCIS, this was not always enforced. The export control certifications required of employers as a part of the petitioning process for certain immigration benefits can be especially challenging for smaller employers and can delay the immigration process.
As your partner in international business, Mehlman Barnes LLP, can offer services through a trusted partner to analyze your company’s business, products, services, and employment offerings to determine whether your company is subject to federal export licensing requirements for your foreign national employees.
4Mergers, Acquisitions & Reorganizations
When a merger, acquisition or company reorganization is contemplated, the immigration-related impact caused by the organizational change is too often overlooked. Because of our world class solutions model, Mehlman Barnes LLP will work with your company to keep abreast of impending organizational changes that might trigger immigration consequences. Potential areas of impact include employment verification (i.e., I-9 and E-Verify) as well as temporary and permanent employment benefits that may require successor-in interest submissions to various government agencies as a means of saving immigration benefits that pre-existed the organizational change. We will also work with your legal department to ensure that any necessary language is included in the corporate documents to assist in this process and that the deal is structured in a way to have the least impact on the immigration status of your employees.
If your company is anticipating or has recently experienced a merger, acquisition or organizational change and you employ foreign national employees, contact Mehlman Barnes LLP at our Getting Started page for a legal analysis.
5Corporate Policy Development
Establishing a corporate immigration policy is becoming more and more critical as U.S. businesses come to rely on foreign national workers. All too often, employers and their HR teams are not prepared for the array of issues that can sometimes arise as a result of immigration. If a well-rounded immigration policy is developed it can serve your business in a number of ways including: i) setting the corporate standard as to what the company’s foreign national workers can expect from a benefits perspective (e.g., what fees will be covered, whether the company will support green card processing, whether travel expenses for visa stamping are absorbed by the company, etc.); ii) educating employees of immigration compliance requirements and areas where the company and/or the employee could be subject to liability in the event of a violation; iii) evidentiary support to demonstrate the company’s good faith efforts to comply with immigration laws and regulation in case of a government audit or other investigation; iv) implementing an overall corporate culture of compliance so as to ensure transparency and willful exchange of information between employees, HR, and management teams.
Unfortunately, it is very common for companies to only focus on the need to establish immigration policies following a triggering event such as employee complaints, government investigations, or the like. At Mehlman Barnes LLP, we encourage proactive policy development. In the unfortunate instance that a triggering event has already occurred for your company, Mehlman Barnes LLP offers prompt and client-centric service that will ensure the policy your business requires is put into place as quickly as possible to avoid future employee relations and/or compliance issues.
If your company is considering either proactively implementing a corporate immigration policy or is has recently determined the need for a policy, contact Mehlman Barnes LLP at our Getting Started page.