Now is the time for companies to assess their needs for highly-skilled foreign workers for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2015. The H-1B is the most popular visa category among employers seeking to employ foreign nationals in a variety of professional occupations, including engineering, biology, computer science, accounting, and teaching.
On April 1, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting cap-subject H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2016. Sixty-Five Thousand H-1B visas are available each fiscal year, and an additional 20,000 are available for employees with master’s degrees from U.S. universities. This is referred to as the H-1B cap. As in the past several years, it is expected that more H-1B petitions will be filed within the first few days after March 31st than there are H-1B visas available. As a result, a lottery will be held to determine which companies’ petitions will be considered, and which companies’ petitions will be rejected. Because of the anticipated lottery, a company seeking to sponsor an employee or prospective employee for an H-1B visa must file the petition with USCIS on April 1, 2015. Note that not all employees will be subject to this cap.
At this time, employers should review the immigration status of their current and potential foreign national employees and identify any individuals for whom H-1B status might be beneficial, particularly any interns or new foreign national employees who are working for the company following graduation from a U.S. university. Companies should not wait until the last minute to identify workers the company would like to sponsor. The H-1B visa process can be an invaluable option for companies seeking highly-skilled talent. However, action should be taken now so companies can attract and retain those workers.
To understand more about the H-1B visa process, contact one of the immigration attorneys in St. Louis, Clayton, and O’Fallon, MO, at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, PC. To speak with an attorney directly about your legal concern, please call us at 314-727-2266 at one of our two St. Louis area offices.
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How Long Do I-9 Forms Need to be Maintained?
Employers in the U.S. are required to complete and maintain a Form I-9 for all employees (with very few exceptions), confirming the employees are authorized to work in the U.S. Significant penalties may be imposed on an employer for failing to complete the I-9, or for doing so incorrectly. Penalties also may be imposed for failing to maintain the I-9 for the required period of time.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires that a Form I-9 be kept until the later of one year after the employee’s termination date or three years after the employee’s first day of work. If the company made copies of the supporting documents when the form was completed, those copies also must be maintained for that period of time. It would be good practice to keep the Forms I-9 for employees who have been terminated separate from the Forms I-9 for current employees. That will allow the individual responsible for maintaining the Forms I-9 to more easily track which forms are ready to be destroyed.
If a Form I-9 is destroyed too early, an employer could face a penalty for failing to properly maintain the forms. Some employers may seek to avoid this possibility by keeping all forms indefinitely, and not destroying the forms following termination of employment. However, that approach also has risks. If the Department of Homeland Security audits the company’s I-9 records, it will review all Forms I-9 on file, even if a form is not technically required to be maintained due to the passage of time following termination of the worker’s employment. If there are problems with the form, including very minor technical paperwork violations, then the company could face fines for the violations on that form.
Therefore, the timing of destroying Forms I-9 for terminated employees is significant. Companies must ensure that proper procedures are in place to track the date a terminated employee’s I-9 may be destroyed, and to confirm that the destruction of the form has occurred. If the company uses I-9 software to maintain the forms electronically, the software should have this tracking and destruction capability. If not, additional procedures need to be implemented.
Contact the immigration attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal to discuss Form I-9 maintenance, or any other issues relating to a company’s I-9 obligations.