As Congress continues to debate how best to overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, small businesses are understandably concerned about how immigration reform will impact them. While much of the attention is focused on addressing undocumented aliens and tightening border security, several proposals would directly impact the business community:
Wider availability of green cards: The proposal would eliminate visa caps for several categories, including highly skilled and exceptionally talented workers and workers who obtain advanced degrees at U.S. universities in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). These changes would make it easier for employers to hire qualified applicants from outside of the United States.
New types of work visas: The proposal also creates several new types of visas geared towards foreign investors and entrepreneurs. For instance, the X visa, a nonimmigrant investor visa, would be available for entrepreneurs whose ventures have attracted at least $100,000 in investment, or have created three jobs and produced $250,000 in annual revenue.
Work authorizations for undocumented workers: Under the proposed law, undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status and work authorization, provided they meet certain requirements. They include residency in the U.S. since December 31, 2011 and a relatively clean criminal record. Undocumented workers must also pay outstanding taxes, satisfy background checks and pay a financial penalty.
Mandatory use of E-Verify: The law would eventually require all employers to use E-Verify, an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
As for what employers can do now, make sure you are using the most current version of the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. The document was recently updated in March and should feature an expiration date of March 31, 2016.
If you have any questions about the immigration proposals or would like to discuss how they may impact your business, please contact me, Peter Yarem, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.