Book Review: Immigration Law in the Workplace

Immigration Law in the Workplace
by Charles M. Miller, Marcine A. Seid, and S. Christopher Stowe, Jr.
584 pp.; 2009
Aspen Publishers, 2009
7201 McKinney Circle, Frederick MD 27704
(800) 638-8437

Immigration Law in the Workplace is a useful resource that covers (1) how to meet immigration compliance responsibilities; and (2) how immigration law affects foreign-born employees. According to the authors, the book is not intended to serve as a treatise on immigration, tax, labor, or social security laws. Instead, it was written to “assist readers in issue spotting and policy analysis to allow resolution of compliance-related issues before they result in employer civil or criminal liability.” The authors succeed in accomplishing their goal and have created a resource that, for the most part, is helpful to legal professionals as well as to employers with no legal background. A glossary of commonly used immigration terms, abbreviations, and acronyms enhances the book’s utility, as do checklists and “best practices” lists dispersed throughout the volume.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is entitled “Employer Immigration Law Responsibilities” and comprises Chapters 2 through 8. Some of these chapters are closely directed to employers; others are legal in their orientation. For example, Chapter 2, “Recruitment Policies,” is geared toward employers and contains straightforward and easy-to-read subject matter, including such topics as “Policy Limiting Hiring to Persons with Current Employment Authorization” and “United States Citizens-Only Hiring Policies.” In contrast, Chapter 3, “Employer Verification Responsibilities,” might be difficult for a non-attorney to follow. The chapter discusses various proposed, interim, and final rules, and the final state of the law might be unclear absent a careful reading. Using specifically worded section headings would have prevented this problem.

Part 2, “U.S. Employment of Foreign Nationals,” describes requirements and processes for obtaining various types of visas. This part includes important information for employers, such as the duration of employment allowed by the various types of visas and the types of documents that may be presented at the time of I-9 completion to establish employment authorization. My main criticism of this second section is that some of the processes outlined (which are described in great detail) have already changed. For example, I found several processing details, primarily relating to filing information, that are already outdated. To the authors’ credit, the book is heavily footnoted to the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, making it easy to verify the accuracy of the information.

The authors do a good job of identifying and describing the complex procedures involved in the residency process. Unfortunately, the permanent residency content does not include a copy of the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin. Only a limited number of visas are available annually, and they are doled out monthly by the Department of State. The concept of visa numerical limits and allocation is basic to an understanding of the permanent residency process. Although the authors explain what the Visa Bulletin is and how it operates, employers and attorneys would benefit from seeing an actual bulletin.

Chapter 13, “Technology and Export Limitation,” is geared toward employers who work in certain scientific or technical fields and hire foreign workers. Those workers may be subject to special security clearances before being granted visas, or they may be ineligible for a visa if their employment would violate U.S. technology transfer laws.

Chapter 14 is a short chapter entitled “State Immigration Legislation and Local Ordinances.” In the last few years, several states have passed immigration-related laws that affect the lives of foreign persons living in the United States. This chapter lists and describes many of these laws.

Part 3 is entitled “Tax and Social Security Laws.” The chapters in this section are concisely written and provide basic, essential information for both attorneys and non-attorneys about how the tax and social security laws affect immigration issues. For example, the authors discuss whether and how a person without a social security number may begin employment; what to do if an employer receives a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that the information it has about an employee does not match the social security number provided by the employer; and what visa classifications are exempt from withholding.

The authors state in the preface that they are unaware of any other publication that contains current material on the full range of employer immigration compliance requirements, including the E-Verify electronic verification system, state immigration laws, no-match safe harbor rules, and tax and social security guidance. However, as a frequent user of immigration publications, I would argue that what makes this publication unique is not the breadth of its immigration compliance content, but its inclusion of information about visa categories. By incorporating such information, the authors have made the compliance information much easier to understand.

Although some of the detailed information about immigration procedures is already outdated, updates to this loose-leaf publication should correct substantive issues. This resource would make a good addition to the library of experienced immigration law practitioners, attorneys engaged in employment law, and employers.

This article should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult an immigration attorney for advice specific to your situation.