Written by: Keith Pabian
Since taking office, President Trump’s administration has ramped up enforcement measures on various industries – especially when it comes to immigration. The hospitality industry took center stage this month when the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) announced separate, new H-2B enforcement initiatives that are focusing specifically on the hospitality industry. As a reminder, H-2B visas are seasonal visas that are used by several industries, including the hospitality industry, to adequately staff for their peak seasons.
The new initiative will consist of investigations of hospitality organizations by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division to ensure that the organizations are in compliance with H-2B regulations. These investigations may be done through mail audits or unannounced on-site visits. The stated purpose behind the increased H-2B enforcement is to ensure that American jobs are not going to foreign workers unless absolutely necessary, as well as to ensure that foreign workers are being treated fairly. While the DOL announced that it would be focusing on hotels, it appears that all hospitality organizations, including country clubs, are at risk of being subject to these audits.
In conjunction with the DOL enforcement measures, USCIS recently launched in-person H-2B visa audits also focused on the hospitality industry. The USCIS audits, while sounding scary as they are in-person and on-site, have generally been largely tame as the USCIS auditors are generally asking to speak to one or two H-2B visa holders and requesting pay stubs. These audits are very quick, with the USCIS auditors on-site for a couple of hours at most.
We do not yet know how far-reaching these audits will be, but we want you to be aware that they are happening and to be prepared in the event that your organization is audited. In the last week, eight of our summer-season clients have received mail audits for the 2017 season and five of our summer-season clients have received an in-person site visit.
Below are three tips for what to do in response to these new initiatives:
Make sure you have your retention files. Make sure you have your retention files easily accessible and ready for review! These files include many required documents that will be helpful to have in the event of an audit. Retention files are mandatory under H-2B visa regulations. If you have not received your retention files from your H-2B provider, you should ask for them immediately.
Train your team. Make sure your team knows what to do if your company receives an in-person visit. Your receptionist or front desk staff should inform the appropriate managers of the visit immediately so they can determine how to proceed. It is perfectly acceptable for you to ask the auditor to wait while you call your immigration lawyer.
Finally, don’t panic. Call us or your immigration attorney if you need assistance. We are here to help you as much or as little as you need.
In short and to reiterate — don’t panic! The new H-2B enforcement initiatives and accompanying audits may seem overwhelming, but if your organization happens to get audited, preparing your team and documentation will make the process much easier.
Keith is a speaker at the HFTP 2018 Annual Convention, taking place October 24-26, 2018 at the Omni Louisville Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky USA. Do not miss his Friday morning session: “The New H-2B and J-1 Visa Landscape: Critical Strategies that National Hospitality Organizations Should Take to Achieve Seasonal Staffing Success.” Register to attend Annual Convention today.
This article was prepared for educational purposes only.