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Sanwar Ali: additional reporting and comments
US employers are being reminded that US anti-discrimination laws apply to every business in America and not just those that sponsor US visas to hire foreign workers. The reminder comes amid a rise in the number of foreign workers who already have the right to work for any employer, being turned away for jobs, seemingly without good reason.
It is perhaps not surprising that many employers are unwilling to employ, even those who have already have the right to work freely in the US. Many employers are probably terrified of doing something wrong. Employing undocumented immigrants may result in thousands of dollars in fines and even criminal penalties.
The rise has prompted officials to remind American businesses of US immigration anti-discrimination provisions that prohibit the unfair rejection of valid documents in the I-9 completion process and refusing to hire workers based on their US citizenship or immigration status.
Several instances have occurred in recent years whereby job requirements have resulted in a foreign national being rejected for a job or removed from a job. These instances include:
Requiring lawful permanent residents to provide a green card during the I-9 process
Re-verifying green cards during the I-9 process
Having “US citizen only” language in the recruitment process
Rejecting an applicant for a job because they may require US visa sponsorship in the future even though they have current valid work authorization
A Social Security Number mismatch occurs, and the employee is fired before an investigation is conducted
Under current US immigration laws, every business is required to verify that it only recruits people with authorization to work in the United States. Verification is achieved by completing Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification.
Failure to complete a Form I-9, or maintain it correctly, can result in fines ranging from $230 to $1,948 depending on the percentage of violations.
Employers are now being reminded that compliance with US immigration laws and employee verification is compulsory, regardless of whether they do or do not sponsor US visa holders. It’s advised that employers consult with an immigration lawyer for help understanding their legal obligations in respect of immigration laws.
Work visa ban
The reminder comes following the expiry of a Trump-era work visa ban on March 31, which reportedly affected around 200,000 foreign nationals, when the issuance of H1B, H2B, H4, J1 and L1 visas was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Widespread reports claim that the tech sector was badly affected by the work visa ban because it relies heavily on temporary workers entering the US under several of the visa categories that were suspended.
The ban was put in place under the guise of protecting American workers, however, many pro-immigrant groups accused Trump of implementing the ban to further his anti-immigration rhetoric.
While an estimated 40 million Americans lost their jobs amid the pandemic, several research reports published during the pandemic found that banning work visas only served to harm the US economy. In fact, it was widely reported that the US work visa ban resulted in losses of around $100 billion for firms.
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