Business Workshop: Employing Foreign Workers in 2013

The large turnout of Hispanic voters in the 2012 election will likely influence Congress to begin again to discuss U.S. immigration policies and reform.

Whatever a new immigration law looks like, it will likely affect most employers. For example, businesses can expect any new immigration law to include greater penalties for those employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

Even if no new immigration law is passed, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) will likely ratchet up audits — 2012 set a record for ICE compliance audits of U.S. companies and 2013 will most certainly see a continuation of that trend.

ICE audits company payroll records and the I-9 forms that employers must fill out and document for new hires. Employers should make certain that they have completed I-9 forms for all employees.

Employers should also expect an expansion of E-Verify in 2013. Now voluntary, E-Verify is a government database used by employers to see if a new employee is legally authorized to work in the U.S. Over the years, Congress has tried to encourage the use of E-Verify — for example, foreign students who graduate with science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees may not extend post-graduation employment unless their employer have run their names through E-Verify.

Another trend that will likely continue with or without a new immigration reform law is the high demand for H-1B visas.

The H-1B visa program permits companies to employ foreign professionals for up to six years. Only 85,000 H-1B visas are awarded each year and demand has been increasing in each of the last several years. Employers can file as early as April 1 for employment beginning Oct. 1, the first day of the government’s fiscal year. Companies that employ H-1B foreign workers should file as early as possible in 2013.

For more information on this topic, please contact Joel Pfeffer at [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Business Workshop section.  Business workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business.

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