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New work visa program presents challenge for small businesses

Many Fairfax readers are already aware of a recent change to immigration policy made by an executive order earlier this year. The change provides for what is known as deferred action status, which allows young people who were brought to the country illegal by their parents to defer deportation orders and obtain a work visa. As many as 1.76 million people could obtain a work visa under the new program.

For small business owners, the new work visas are likely to present some new challenges. One issue that is likely to arise for some will be the admission by a current employee that they were not previously authorized to work in the United States, accompanied by newly acquired work visa information.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are about 80,000 individuals who could qualify for the work visas that have an associate's degree or higher. 44 percent are expected to have bachelor's degrees and 8 percent have advanced degrees.

The newly minted legal workers will provide employers with an employment authorization document which can be used as legal identification just like a passport. Existing employees who approach their bosses with the cards may be putting them in a sticky situation. In that circumstance, its best to consult with an attorney to find out what the specific situation requires, since it may have a number of immigration, tax, benefits, or other implications.

Still, the newly eligible workers may be an ideal addition to a small business, since they are anticipated to have a wide range of skill and education levels.

Our Fairfax county law firm works with local business in many capacities, including offering our services as general counsel to small organizations. More information is available on our website.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Lawyers Expect Young Immigrants to Flood Small Employers," Karen E. Klein, August 20, 2012.