What Do Human Resource Managers Need to Know About Immigration Laws?

what-do-human-resource-managers-need-to-know-about-immigration-lawsWhen advancements in technology meet progressive international trade agreements, opportunities abound for those companies that are willing to hire the world’s best talent and are well versed in the national immigration laws.

Many business disciplines allow managers to make judgment calls based upon their personal leadership style and common sense. However, this is not always the case with human resource managers who are responsible for employment eligibility verification, overseeing the sponsorship of work visas and monitoring of employee work status subsequent to a company merger or acquisition. These business professionals must know and adhere to the relevant laws relating to immigration.

Here are some specific immigration areas where human resource managers must pay close attention to avoid costly legal issues as well as some ways to ensure compliance.

Avoiding Legal Penalties Associated With Employment Eligibility Verification

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 mandates that all companies must help the federal government to prevent unauthorized persons from working in the United States (U.S.) through a process called employment eligibility verification. Businesses can meet the legal requirements of this immigration reform regulation primarily by incorporating the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) Form I-9 into their hiring processes. The I-9 form requests that potential employees present a series of identification documents to verify that they are legally authorized to work in the U.S; these documents could include a social security card, birth certificate and a valid passport.

The immigration act was enacted to protect the rights to employment for all U.S. citizens and those who are otherwise authorized to work in the country by helping government agencies to weed out those who are illegally working in the country. Most human resource managers find that the I-9 process is straightforward, and penalties are avoided by simply administering and submitting the form to the proper government agencies.

However, a U.S. citizen or authorized person can come in a variety of hues, national origins and ethnicities. The human resource manager must avoid singling out these potential employees by asking them for extra identification documents or other information because they do not appear “American” to them. By avoiding this practice, the human resources officer protects their company from needless discrimination lawsuits. Personal judgment calls and opinions are not needed for the proper implementation of the INS Form I-9.

Sponsoring Work Visas

Companies that intend to do business with foreign partners or that have strategic plans to go global must have human resources managers who understand the various types of visas available for foreign colleagues and visitors.

The visa types are divided into ones that support the work of non immigrants as well as immigrants. For example, foreign persons who are non immigrants can enter the country to attend training or other meetings if they have valid B-1 visas. However, B-1 visa holders are not authorized to work in the U.S. Alternately, foreign persons who want to permanently live and work in the U.S. legally as immigrants can be sponsored for employment as part of the labor certification application process; employers can sponsor these employees for work after they obtain proof that there are no other qualified U.S. workers available to do the job.

Following Up To Ensure Company Compliance

Companies and their human resource managers want to get issues pertaining to immigration regulations resolved quickly since noncompliance can result in stiff civil and criminal penalties depending upon the frequency of the violations. Conducting periodic internal and independent, external audits of company human resources management processes pertaining to immigration regulations can help make sure that businesses avoid legal troubles over immigration issues. Immigration law attorneys can also provide companies with updated guidance about immigration regulations.


The current rules regarding immigration as they pertain to the workplace are comprehensive enough that many small companies with fledgling human resource management departments are tempted not to sponsor work visas at all. Additionally, the political winds of change suggest that upcoming immigration reform policies will add new levels of complexity to these work place issues. However, companies that expect to leverage the world’s talent to grow and maintain their competitive advantage will support human resource managers who are knowledgeable about the nation’s immigration laws.

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