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Immigration Law: What General Counsels Need To Know Now

On May 23, 2018, Major, Lindsey & Africa partnered with Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Boston to present a live, interactive program on best practices for navigating the choppy waters of U.S. business immigration law.  Addressing an audience of in-house counsel and human resources professionals, Seyfarth Shaw Partner Dyann DelVecchio Hilbern moderated a panel featuring:Leslie Joseph, Vice President and General Counsel at Mount Auburn Hospital;  Jigisha Patel, Assistant General Counsel at Northeastern University; and Katie Rowen, Vice President, Labor & Employment and Litigation at Fortive Corporation.

Each panelist focused on ways to pilot an organization’s U.S. immigration programs in the face of dramatic changes in the federal government’s processing of temporary visas (e.g., H-1B and TN visas) and green cards.

Key takeaways included:

- Early education and expectation-setting for all stakeholders—including employees, management, and HR, is key—particularly when much of the approval process is out of the organization’scontrol.Even the best planning and preparation cannot guarantee success.

- The need for creativity in strategizing solutions when visa petitions are delayed or denied.Organizations are under pressure to provide alternatives for visa denials and need to consider alloptions, including sending employees to work outside the U.S. on a temporary basis.

- Organizations must be proactive in the face of increased government audits, particularly in the completion of the Form I-9. Solutions include: centralizing the process, moving to electronicrecords, focusing on ongoing training, adding staff resources, and recognizing that, while the I-9 appears to be a relatively simple form, it is not.

- Companies engaged in M&A activity should be sure to include a U.S. immigration focus in the work stream. Counsel should ensure the topic is addressed with due diligence, and immigrationattorneys from both organizations should be connected for helpful dialogue and planning for foreign national employees.

- In spite of the roadblocks to smooth immigration processing, many organizations—including all represented on our panel—remain committed to sustained, or even increased, efforts to - continue U.S. immigration programs. Workplace diversity is valued, and fierce competition for qualified talent mandates a commitment to “soldier on” and not retreat.

- Having responsive and creative legal counsel is crucial. Navigating today’s immigration waters requires passion, planning, effort, a realistic approach, and a team effort.

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