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Immigration News – February 2, 2007

February 02, 2007

By Immigration Practice Group

  • USCIS Proposes Significant Fee Increases

  • Senate Passes Amendment to Fair Minimum Wage Act to Address Hiring of Unauthorized Employees

USCIS Proposes Significant Fee Increases

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposed rule this week seeking to adjust its application and petition fee schedule. The proposed rule has a 60-day comment period, and USCIS does not expect to have published a final rule before June. According to USCIS, a comprehensive fee study was undertaken over a period of eight months. The proposed fee increases are meant to cover investments and improvements in technology and infrastructure in addition to operating costs. USCIS believes that these increases would enable the agency to reduce processing times by 20% across the board by the end of FY 2009. The proposed fee increases have drawn widespread negative comment from many in Congress and the business community, and efforts to postpone or ameliorate the increases are expected.

Senate Passes Amendment to Fair Minimum Wage Act to Address Hiring of Unauthorized Employees

On January 25, 2007, the Senate approved an amendment to the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 that would bar companies that violate the federal employment verification rules – including paperwork violations – from receiving government contracts for seven years (ten years if the employer held a government contract at the time of the offense). The amendment would exempt employers who voluntarily participate in the Basic Pilot program. After final passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 in the Senate, a conference committee of House and Senate members will meet to reconcile differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill.
This amendment would impose extreme new penalties even for minor violations by conscientious employers. Moreover, the Basic Pilot Program “safety valve” is not a clear solution for employers; voluntary participation in that program remains problematic because of database flaws, questions of capacity, and other factors. Nevertheless, the approach taken in the amendment is consistent with the government’s increased focus on enforcement and compliance. Its overwhelming passage by the Senate (94-0) serves as an additional reminder to employers to take steps to ensure that employees are authorized for employment and that I-9s are completed and retained as required by the Immigration and Nationality Act. Paul Hastings and GPA will be active in seeking to ensure that the amendment is stripped from the minimum wage bill in conference, and that reform of the employment verification system takes place through a more measured and deliberate process.
Immigration News is published solely for the interests of friends and clients of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP and should in no way be relied upon or construed as legal advice. For specific information on recent developments or particular factual situations, the opinion of legal counsel should be sought. Paul Hastings is a limited liability partnership. Copyright © 2007 Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP.