Maintaining an H1B Audit (Public Access) File

The H-1B , is an employment based non-immigrant visa, that enables United States employers to seek highly skilled foreigner workers from around the world to increase productivity and develop new innovations within their fields which ultimately helps the U.S. economy. In return, the U.S. remains at the forefront of technology among other nations of the world, and continues as a major competitor in all other fields. The system was designed to protect both U.S. and foreign workers by: (1) including labor certifications and attestations; (2) implementing costly filing fees; (3) requiring extensive background documentation/proof; and (4) conducting on-site employer investigations and continuous oversight by several federal agencies.

The H-1B program contains strong provisions to ensure that U.S. and foreign workers are protected. Employers must guarantee that the U.S. workers will not be adversely affected upon the hiring of an H-1B professional. A U.S. employer using the program must also guarantee that: (1) the foreign professional will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. colleagues; (2) U.S. colleagues will be given notice of the foreign professional’s presence among them; (3) there is no strike or lockout at the worksite; and (4) the position requires a professional in a specialty occupation and the intended employee has the required qualifications. Employers who fail to comply with the Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations may become subject to investigation, civil and administrative penalties, payment of back wages, and disbarment from participation in key immigration programs.

To ensure that U.S. and foreign workers are protected, each employer must maintain an audit/public access file for each H-1B applicant it has acquired. It is important to keep the public access file separate from all other employee and business files. The employer is required to have a public inspection file and DOL is able to audit that inspection file as well as payroll records to make sure the foreign worker is/was being paid the wage stated in the application. Public access files must be maintained for a period of one year beyond the last date on which any H-1B nonimmigrant was employed under the labor condition application.

Although H-1B audits are not that common, the H-1B program is currently undergoing scrutiny. Therefore, it is extremely important to maintain an organized H-1B audit/public access file, so you may expedite the audit and possibly save the company from any potential liability due to mingled or misplaced files. Audits may occur due to former employee complaints, randomly or on a profile basis. For a random audit, the DOL simply selects an employer to audit. However, a profile audit occurs when the DOL discovers a significant variation of offenses in a particular industry/area and the employer is part of the same industry/area, or the DOL has a profile for violators and the employer meets the profile. Evidently, an employer should expect an audit at some point because it is the DOL’s intent to eventually audit everyone who files LCAs.

To avoid potential costly fines, payment of back wages and/or disbarment from participation in key immigration programs, it is our recommendation that employers keep the following documents within each H-1B applicant’s separate public access file:

• A copy of each certified labor condition application (Form ETA 9035 or Form ETA 9035E) including all pages and cover sheet;
• Documentation which provides the wage rate to be paid to the non-immigrant (ex. Employment offer/agreement);
• A clear explanation of the system that the employer used to set the “actual wage” the employer has paid or will pay workers in the occupation sought (ex. Statement/evidence of employer’s pay-system or scale);
• Documentation which the employer used to establish the “prevailing wage” for the occupation sought (ex. Printout from http://www.flcdatacenter.com);
• A copy of the notice of posting including dates of posting, and a statement identifying the two posting locations;
• A statement confirming that a copy of the approved LCA was provided to the H-1B worker;
• If employer is H-1B dependent and/or a willful violator, and indicates on the LCA that only “exempt” H-1B non-immigrants will be employed, a list of such “exempt” H-1B non-immigrants should be within the file;
• If employer is H-1B dependent and/or a willful violator, and indicates such on the LCA, a summary of the recruitment methods used and the time frames of recruitment of U.S. workers, or copies of documents establishing this information should be within the file