In recent years, immigration has become inundated with new obstacles and extended delays. In recent weeks, immigrants have had to face brand new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But as the administration restricts travel and slows adjudication processes, many have begun to realize just how vital immigration is for our essential workforce.
Due to local, state, and federal orders, nonessential businesses have either limited their operations or shut down entirely. But essential businesses (e.g. Amazon, food suppliers, grocery stores, and healthcare facilities) remain open and disproportionately depend on workers who were not born in the United States. While immigrants represent just 17% of the American workforce, they comprise much higher percentages in jobs like physicians and home health aides (29% and 38%, respectively).
Now more than ever, our essential employers need visas for foreign laborers—particularly H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and E visas. The demand for medical professionals is particularly high because a vast portion of them will soon retire.
If you are depending on an employment visa to either work in the U.S. or fill critical positions, visit our blog about overcoming COVID-19-related immigration delays. These strategies will help you navigate unexpected challenges and minimize wait times.
In the meantime, here are a few key factors to consider as an employer of foreign workers:
- Prepare for your emergency protocol to clash with employment law. You may need to close your physical offices, require your employees to work from home, and cancel events, meetings, and conferences. These actions could affect your immigration compliance, as many visas (e.g. H-1B and L-1) restrict the locations where employees can work. You will need to take extra time to develop a plan that protects the health of your employees while remaining as compliant as possible.
- You may be subject to unannounced site visits by USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) unit. If you are an L-1 employer, for example, you can adopt a work-from-home policy. You must maintain an office, however, and the FDNS unit may investigate activities at the office listed on your employees’ visa petitions.
- Be prepared to oppose Notices of Intent to Revoke. Upon investigation, USCIS may send you notices of intent to revoke your employees’ visas if the FDNS unit discovers noncompliance. With thorough documentation and preparation, however, you may be able to successfully oppose these initial decisions. You will need to demonstrate your noncompliance as inevitable due to COVID-19-related conditions.
- As an L-1 employer, you may not be able to obtain blanket L-1 visa application approvals. The adjudication of blanket L-1 visa applications may be unavailable during COVID-19, so you may need to file individual extension requests for your approved blanket petitions.
- Prepare for canceled appointments with U.S. Consulates. Because appointments will likely not take place until mid-May at the earliest, you may need to file visa extension requests and advise your nonimmigrant workers to avoid international travel.
- Consider other methods of opposition. By engaging in government advocacy and even civil litigation, you and other essential employers may be able to hold immigration agencies accountable for their arbitrary, unlawful, or capricious decisions. COVID-19 is a global crisis that affects every facet of our lives, and government agencies must understand this.
Let Us Help You Hire the Foreign Workers You Need
If you depend on H-1B, H-2B, L-1, or E visas to keep your business running, The Sekou Clarke Law Group wants to help. Our Orlando immigration lawyers have a thorough understanding of COVID-19’s impact on immigration processes, and we are here to guide you through this challenging terrain. Because we are fully equipped to help businesses obtain the foreign employees they need, we are remaining fully operational to assist employers during this crisis.