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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Indian Man Sentenced to Prison for Visa Fraud

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    Ramesh Venkata Pothuru, a former owner and operator of Virgo Inc. and Isync Solutions, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison following convictions for wire and visa fraud. The sentencing follows an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

    The investigation disclosed that between 2010 and 2013, Pothuru collected over $450,000 in illegal filing fees and related expenses from more than 100 fraudulent visas and employer-sponsored green cards for nonimmigrant workers from his native India. Pothuru collected these illegal fees and expenses from the employees he sponsored for H-1B visas and green cards through direct payments to his personal bank accounts. He subsequently submitted false applications in which he did not identify the fees that he collected from the non-immigrant workers and swore that he did not collect.

    Under federal regulations concerning H-1B visas, employers are prohibited from taking payments from H-1B non-immigrant workers to cover the costs associated with filing fees, which fees are required by law to be borne by the sponsoring U.S. employer.
  2. DOJ Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against UCSD

    By: Bruce Buchahan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    The Justice Department, through the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), has reached a settlement agreement with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). The settlement resolves the investigation into whether the University’s Resource Management and Planning Vice Chancellor Area (RMP) discriminated against workers in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when verifying their continued authorization to work.

    The investigation concluded the RMP unnecessarily required certain work-authorized immigrants to re-establish their work authorization when their documents expired, based on the citizenship status of those individuals when they were hired. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits such requests for documents when based on an employee’s citizenship status or national origin.

    Under the settlement, the University will pay a penalty to the United States, train its RMP human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.

    Under the settlement agreement, UCSD will pay $4,712 in civil penalties for the alleged unfair documentary practices; post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision; train its Human Resources personnel on their legal obligations to not discriminate by viewing a free online IER webinar presentation and reviewing the M-274 Handbook for Employers; review and revise, as necessary, any existing employment policies that relate to nondiscrimination based on traits or characteristics protected by law; and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.

    For answers to many other questions related to the IER, and immigration compliance, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book that I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  3. Placement of STEM OPT Workers in Third-Party Client/Customer Sites is Barred

    By: Bruce Buchanan Sebelist Buchanan Law



    In a below the radar move, the USCIS has updated its webpage for Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) to reflect a ban on the placement of STEM OPT workers at third-party client/customer sites. In doing so, the USCIS is relying upon a March 11, 2016 final rule amending regulations to expand OPT for students with U.S. degrees in STEM. The rule included new provisions to obtain a 24-month STEM OPT extension including, each STEM OPT student must prepare and execute with their prospective employer a formal training plan that identifies learning objectives and a plan for achieving training objectives, and the employer must agree to announced and unannounced Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) site visits to employer locations where STEM OPT students are employed.

    Although the new rule does not prohibit placement of students at third-party worksites, the USCIS states the DHS/ICE site visit provision is the basis for the new prohibition. USCIS’s website states:
    The training experience must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business or worksite(s) to which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has authority to conduct employer site visits to ensure that the employer is meeting program requirements. This means that ICE must always have access to a student’s worksite; if the student is sent to different worksite locations as part of the training opportunity, ICE must be able to access such worksite locations. For instance, the training experience may not take place at the place of business or worksite of the employer’s clients or customers because ICE would lack authority to visit such sites.

    The change in the website did not provide any explanation as to why DHS/ICE lacks the authority to conduct a site visit on the premises of a third-party client if that client site had been clearly listed on an approved Form I-983 training application. The Form I-983 training application sets forth that DHS may, at its discretion, conduct a site visit. It would be reasonable to conclude that by listing a third-party client site as the student’s work location on the I-983, that the worksite is open to a site visit by ICE.

    Why would the USCIS update its website with no prior notice and no opportunity for comment? Great question without an answer. Hopefully, DHS will provide an answer but don’t count on it. If they do, I will report in a future blog article.

    Updated 05-10-2018 at 09:29 AM by BBuchanan

  4. Tech Company Agrees to Pay $173,000 to resolve H-1B Violations

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law


    Cloudwick Technologies Inc., a California-based IT company, has agreed to pay $173,044 to 12 employees for violations of the federal H-1B foreign labor certification program after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). Additionally, Cloudwick has also enrolled in an enhanced compliance agreement requiring them to hire an independent third-party monitor to help ensure future compliance.

    WHD investigators found the company paid impacted employees well below the wage levels required under the H-1B program based on job skill level, and also made illegal deductions from workers’ salaries. As a result, some of the H-1B employees that Cloudwick brought from India with promised salaries of up to $8,300 per month instead received as little as $800 net per month.

    The Trump administration is touting this agreement as another victory for “Buy American, Hire American.” Susana Blanco, Wage and Hour Division District Director in San Francisco stated “The intent of the H-1B foreign labor certification program is to help American companies find the highly skilled talent they need when they can prove that a shortage of U.S. workers exists. The resolution of this case demonstrates our commitment to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for law-abiding employers, and protect guest workers from being paid less than they are legally owed.”

    Cloudwick provides data solution services to major corporations nationwide, including American Express, Bank of America, Apple, Cisco, Comcast, Intuit, Safeway, Verizon, Visa, and many others.
  5. Metropolitan Concrete Corp. owes over $100,000 Due to Violations in H-2B Visa Program

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law



    Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Metropolitan Concrete Corp. will pay $29,161 in civil money penalties and $73,647 in back wages to 15 employees working under the H-2B non-immigrant visa program.

    WHD investigators found Metropolitan Concrete Corp. classified the H-2B employees improperly as landscapers. The investigation determined the H-2B employees actually worked as cement masons and concrete finishers, and as such, the employer should have paid them at a higher prevailing wage rate. The company also should have advertised the position to potential U.S. workers using the correct job classification and prevailing wage rate, as required by the H-2B provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Failing to do so may have resulted in fewer U.S. workers applying for the positions than would have occurred if the employer advertised accurate information.

    Investigators also found Metropolitan Concrete failed to comply with requirements to pay the employees’ inbound transportation costs and to provide workers with the tools, supplies, or equipment they need to perform their job duties. The company also took impermissible deductions from workers’ pay for housing expenses. In addition to the payment of back wages, the Division assessed $29,161 in civil penalties.

    If you want to know more information on immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
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