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Changes to Policies regarding Enforcement and Monitoring of H-1B Program Announced

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The Trump administration has expressed its intention to make numerous changes to the laws and policies surrounding US immigration. One of the areas of focus has been reform of the H-1B visa program for skilled workers. In recent months, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Labor have announced the changes it planned to make to the manner in which they investigate and prosecute violations of the H-1B program. 

President Trump first announced his goal to revamp the H-1B visa program in his April 2017 “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. The order required the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security, and State to create an action plan on how they would help ensure that H-1B visas would go only to the most skilled workers, how American workers would be protected, and how these offices would prevent American workers from losing their jobs due to an influx of “cheap labor.”

The Department of Labor has already announced its intention to investigate violations of the laws governing the highly-popular program. The Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, has recently announced additional details on how violations of visa program laws would be addressed. Acosta described that instances of fraud, such as by petitioning for an H-1B visa on the basis that a worker would do one job but then employing them in a different one, would be referred for criminal prosecution more often. He also announced that the Department of Justice and Homeland Security would work in closer contact to investigate visa fraud, and that other government agencies would also coordinate their efforts to help bring about more criminal prosecution of fraud committed on the system. Finally, these investigations and prosecutions of violations will be published more often, in an effort to shame violators and encourage compliance.

The Department of Homeland Security has also announced upcoming changes to how it plans to address the president’s executive order. It has announced imminent updates to regulations and guidance regarding H-1B visas. It has also announced that it would be investigating potential violations in a more targeted manner. With the increase in investigations and the stiff penalties faced by violators (up to $51,000 for a willful violation), employers who sponsor workers through the H-1B program are strongly encouraged to seek legal guidance on whether they are in compliance with the current state of the law, and on how to prepare for these changes.

If you’re in need of skilled legal assistance with an immigration or business law issue in Southern California, contact the San Diego offices of Esprit Law for a consultation, at 619-876-0503.

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