Debra R. Shpigler Co., LPA
INS FOLDED INTO DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
On March 1, 2003, the Immigration & Naturalization Service ceased to exist. All of the INS’s immigration functions were moved into three new bureaus that are part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (BCIS) will handle the “benefits” side of immigration. This means that BCIS will process all applications for immigration benefits and services, including applications for employment- and family-based visas, employment authorization documents and naturalization.
The Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (BICE) will focus on enforcement of the immigration laws within the borders of the United States. Among other things, BICE will be responsible for the detention and removal of criminal aliens and will perform certain duties of the Customs Service and Federal Protection Service.
The Bureau of Customs & Border Protection (BCBP) will be responsible for immigration and customs matters at our borders. BCBP now includes the Border Patrol, certain parts of the Customs Service and Agricultural Quarantine Inspections.
It is too early to say whether this restructuring will improve the administration of our immigration laws or slow the system further. There is no question, however, that immigration issues will remain in the forefront of our national policy debates.
CHANGES IN SOCIAL SECURITY NO MATCH LETTERS
Fewer employers will receive “no match” letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2003. According to information released by the agency, the SSA will send letters only to employers that have more than 10 employees with mismatched information or for whom mismatched employees represented ½ % to 1% of the W-2 forms filed with SSA. This means that SSA will send approximately 130,000 letters, compared with around 900,000 in 2002. In addition, the 2003 letters will not include any reference to IRS fines for non-compliance.
This new rule is welcome news to employers and their alien employees. In addition to speeding up the overall process of obtaining a green card, it will allow aliens and their dependents to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) earlier in the process than ever before. An alien and his or her dependents can apply for an EAD when they file an I-485. Since it takes the INS about 80 days to issue an EAD, the alien and his/her spouse may start working pursuant to their EAD cards earlier than ever.
Every year, the SSA reviews W-2 forms and credits social security earnings to workers. If a name or social security number on a W-2 form does not match the SSA’s records, the social security earnings go into a suspense file while the SSA tries to resolve the discrepancy. One of the ways in which the SSA does this is by sending a “no match” letter to the employer of the employee in question.
SSA’s plans for 2003 should reduce the level of anxiety caused by receiving a “no match” letter. Nevertheless, employers must continue to be vigilant in obtaining all required information on Form I-9 when a new employee starts work.This Immigration Bulletin is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice.
Debra R. Shpigler Co., LPA is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.