H-1B visa: Federal government officers coming to remote workers’ homes, Bay Area lawyer reports

With the coronavirus pandemic pushing much of the U.S. into remote work, federal immigration officers are starting to make home visits to ensure that employers and foreign workers on the H-1B visa are complying with the terms of the work permits, a Bay Area immigration lawyer reports.

Companies that hire H-1B workers have typically told them that officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration may come to offices to confirm visa compliance, said San Francisco immigration lawyer Kelli Duehning. Now, for foreign workers already anxious over the aggressive approach to immigration and visa enforcement under President Donald Trump, home visits are likely to ratchet up the fear, said Duehning, of Berry Appleman & Leiden.

“There’s something different about an officer from the federal government coming to your workplace than coming to your home. It should be your sanctuary. And now it’s not even safe for them,” Duehning said.

The home visits appear to be a new development, with immigration officials “catching up on these new pandemic practices,” Duehning said. Employers her firm works for have reported that Citizenship and Immigration has been emailing H-1B holders to set up meetings at their homes or offices, but Duehning said she knows of a worker in Mountain View and one in Redwood City who were not contacted in advance before an immigration officer showed up at their door with questions.

“It’s all a little bit scary, especially to those folks who are not used to the process of having an officer come to your house and knock on your door and start asking questions,” she said.

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Citizenship and Immigration declined to say when it started home visits, for what reasons, how many it has conducted or where. Agency spokesman Matthew Bourke said the agency’s power to conduct work site inspections to verify visa holders’ eligibility and compliance with the law “is critical to the integrity of the H–1B program to detect and deter fraud and noncompliance.” On-site inspections are only conducted at locations that employers have designated as work sites, Bourke said.

The H-1B, intended for skilled workers, has become a target for the Trump administration, which has dramatically increased visa denials for staffing and outsourcing companies that place foreign workers in other firms. The administration has increased minimum wage requirements for the visa program, redefined what types of employment qualify for the H-1B, and plans to replace the H-1B lottery — which grants 85,000 new visas per year — with a wage-based allocation system.

Silicon Valley’s technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B, obtaining visas directly and also employing visa workers through staffing companies. The tech giants push to expand the annual 85,000 cap, maintaining that more visas should be issued so they can secure the world’s top talent. Google, Apple, Facebook, HP, Twitter and LinkedIn were among 46 companies and business groups that earlier this month signed onto a “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit fighting the administration’s new regulations on minimum pay and qualifying employment.

Critics point to reported abuses and allege that the H-1B is used to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

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