Helpful Information for Employees Arriving on US Work Visas
Serfaty Law, P.A., is pleased to provide the following guidance and information intended to help you during your stay in the United States. It is important that you understand your responsibilities as a temporary worker and where to seek answers to your questions should they arise. Please remember that the information contained herein does not take the place of legal advice for a specific situation, and is intended only as general information and guidance.
You are required to present a valid, unexpired passport to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspecting officer when you apply for entry to the U.S. This is true whether you enter at an airport, land, or seaport-of-entry, your passport should carry a validity date of at least six months beyond the date of your expected U.S. departure. For individuals entering pursuant to an approved petition issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the passport should have an expiration date of at least six months beyond the USCIS petition expiration date. Otherwise, the officer may only admit you to your passport expiration date. It is important to keep your passport renewed at all times while you are in the U.S.
A visa stamp is issued by U.S. Consulates worldwide and may or may not be required depending upon your citizenship and class of admission. Canadian citizens, for example, are considered visa exempt for most categories. Issuance of a visa stamp by a U.S. Consulate does not guarantee admission — and you will still be required to show eligibility for admission to the inspecting CBP officer at the port-of-entry. You should confirm before you travel on whether you will require a visa stamp to re-enter.
I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
Your admission to the United States at a port-of-entry (airport, land, or sea) is confirmed by the CBP officer’s issuance of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. As of April 30, 2013, CBP began substituting the small white paper I-94 cards with an ink passport stamp and an electronic record of admission. The electronic record of admission may be accessed at www.cbp.gov/J94. There is no legal requirement that you print out your record of admission in order to prove lawful admission and maintenance of status in the U.S. However, we recommend printing a record of admission for your records.
Whether you were issued a paper or electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, the information obtained by CBP about you should be carefully reviewed by you for errors. Misspelling of names, incorrect birth dates and erroneous expiration dates are the most common errors. If you notice an error, you should immediately notify the CBP officer, or if you have already left the CBP inspections area, the error may be corrected by visiting a local CBP deferred inspections office. When retained, be sure to provide Serfaty Law, P.A., with a scan of any new I-94 Arrival/Departure Record and point out anything that may be an error.
The expiration date of your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record is extremely important because it controls your period of work authorization and how long you may stay. Even if you possess a USCIS-issued petition approval notice or a visa stamp issued at a U.S. Consulate which shows a later expiration date, the I-94 expiration date still controls. Overstaying the I-94 expiration date can carry negative and sometimes severeimmigration consequences (next page).
IT IS ULTIMATELY YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE NOT OVERSTAYED THE EXPIRATION DATE OF YOUR I-94 ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE RECORD. NOTIFY YOUR HR REPRESENTATIVE IMMEDIATELY IF YOU HAVE NOT BEEN CONTACTED BY ANYONE TO COMMENCE THE I-94 RENEWAL PROCESS WITHIN FOUR MONTHS OF YOUR I-94 EXPIRATION DATE.
International Travel and Re-Entry
Before applying for re-entry to the U.S., it is important to familiarize yourself with the information and documentation provided by your employer to the government in support of your work visa. This means that you should carefully review any nonimmigrant visa petition/forms, employer letters, and other supporting documents submitted on your behalf. If you do not have access to a copy of the government filing, you should contact your HR representative immediately. If upon review of the government filing you see any incorrect information, you should be sure to contact your employer. An amended filing may or may not be required depending on the discrepancy.
Be prepared to discuss the specific nature of your job, which can include your title, duties, salary, and job location, as well as your education, your prior experience, and your employer. It is common for inspecting officers to utilize internet searches (e.g., Google, Bing, etc.) and social media sites (e.g., Linkedln, Facebook, etc.) to seek information about an applicant and/or their employer in making their admission decision. If the information readily available in the public domain is not consistent with the information provided in the government filing submitted on your behalf, be prepared to explain the discrepancies.
Be aware that an inspecting officer only has a brief time to inspect you and he/she can elect to send you to a secondary inspection area for more detailed questioning. Always be polite, respectful, and answer questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge and ability. If you do not understand a question, request that it be repeated or restated in a manner that you can comprehend. If you are unsure, a response of “I don’t know” or “I am unsure” is preferred over trying to make up an answer that you believe the officer wants to hear. Conversations are routinely recorded and placed into an official record of inspection. While you will likely not encounter any issues on re-entry, it is important for you to understand the possible scenarios that may come up and how to prepare for them.
Social Security Number (SSN)
You are eligible for a Social Security number (SSN) after you are issued an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record confirming your work-authorized visa status. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will require you to submit an application and show proof of your identity and work authorization. SSA must confirm your work authorized status with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before issuing the SSN. It may take a number of weeks for DRS to update their records after your admission date. For more information on how to apply, see http://www.ssa.gov/immigration/.
Form I-9 Employment Eligibility
Federal law requires that all new employees provide their employer with proof of identity and work authorization on or before their first date of employment. The employer is required to document the new worker’s identity and work authorization on Form I-9. Both the employee and employer are required to sign this form. If the work authorization document presented is temporary, the employer must re-verify the employee’s continued authorization to work on/before the date of expiration. Information on what are considered acceptable I-9 documents for these purposes can be found on the USCIS website: http://www.uscis.gov.
AR-11 Change of Address
You are required to notify the USCIS of any changes to your residential address within 10 days of moving. This is a completely separate process than filing a change of address form with your U.S. Post Office. Government Form AR-11 is used to notify USCIS of your address change, and the form can now be submitted electronically by visiting http://www.uscis.gov. Be sure to provide your new address information to your Serfaty Law, P.A., paralegal as soon as possible so that we can update our records.
Personal or Job-Related Changes
A spouse or child (under 21 years of age) is eligible for nonimmigrant status as your dependent. Be sure to contact your HR representative if there are any anticipated changes to your marital status or the addition of any dependents. Additional government filings may or may not be required depending on your circumstances.
Changes to your current role may or may not have immigration consequences. For example, minor changes in your job duties (e.g., taking on a new project, working for a new manager), or an increase in pay as the result of a yearly performance review, will likely not be viewed as a material change and no additional immigration filings would be required. However, changing job locations, moving to a different occupational title (e.g., moving from a software engineer to a product manager), or other material changes will likely affect your immigration status and action must be taken to ensure compliance with federal immigration law. If you are contemplating a change in your role, please contact your HR representative so that your situation can be analyzed appropriately.