Navigating Work Visa Requirements and Immigration Enforcement

Whether you’re an individual or an employer, immigration lawyers can help

By Judy Malmon, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on December 20, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney Ian D. Wagreich

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U.S. immigration policies affect millions of people who live in, but are noncitizens of, the United States. What’s more, immigration policies frequently change depending on who is in power.

Immigration lawyers are some of the first to see emerging trends and consequences of policy changes. In 2018, lawyers shared insights on the stepped-up enforcement of verifications and fraud investigations by both U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—the law enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—and the Department of Labor (DOL).

Here is a look back at the policy and enforcement changes of recent years — and why it’s always important to seek legal help if you have an immigration law matter.

2018: Increased Immigration Enforcement Activities Under the Trump Administration

“Employers need to be aware that there are going to be increased enforcement actions—such as the coordinated ICE workplace raids—on businesses with multiple franchises like what we saw with 7-Eleven,” says Ian Wagreich, an immigration attorney at Hinshaw & Culbertson in Chicago. “Also, I expect increased audits by the Department of Labor, looking at all employees’ I-9s.”

It really helps to use a lawyer in this process. First, so that the information gets presented in a way that the government likes to see it—[immigration lawyers] have a lot of experience with this. Also, the adjudications themselves are becoming much more difficult, with an increased level of scrutiny at the front end, and requests for evidence are going way up… A big mistake lots of people make is waiting too long.

Ian D. Wagreich

Increased Scrutiny in the H-1B Visa Application Process

Other enforcement priorities that Wagreich saw related to documentation supporting the H-1B visa program.

Under this non-immigrant visa category, employers may sponsor international workers to the U.S. based on a specialized need (usually at least a bachelor’s degree or higher) and for a specific job. A limited number of H-1B visas are awarded each year, and more applications than available visas are received, necessitating the use of a lottery to determine which petitions get selected.

In addition to more thorough national security and fraud checks at the front end, there are follow-up audits and site visits from fraud detection investigators and law enforcement. “I’m telling my clients to be educated about the kinds of things they’ll be asked about,” says Wagreich. “They really need to know the information that’s in their petition, and work closely with their counsel. Usually, the government is looking for fraud—looking to see that the job as outlined in the petition is actually the job being done by the individual, in the location stated; and that it’s a real, operating company.”

2021: Narrowed Immigration Enforcement Priorities Under the Biden Administration

In January 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order rescinding President Trump’s immigration enforcement policies. In September 2021, the DHS issued new deportation guidelines that narrowed priorities to three categories of undocumented noncitizens:

  1. A threat to national security;
  2. A threat to public safety; or
  3. A threat to border security.

After a prolonged legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2023 rejected a challenge to these guidelines brought by Texas and Louisiana, ruling that the states lacked standing to challenge the federal government’s executive branch in setting and enforcing immigration policies.

Find an Experienced Immigration Lawyer

Even though enforcement priorities and activities have changed under different administrations, immigration processes remain complex and full of challenges. It’s still important to seek help from a qualified immigration law attorney if you’re facing any immigration issue, whether as an individual or an employer looking to hire foreign employees.

“It really helps to use a lawyer in this process,” Wagreich says. “First, so that the information gets presented in a way that the government likes to see it—[immigration lawyers] have a lot of experience with this. Also, the adjudications themselves are becoming much more difficult, with an increased level of scrutiny at the front end, and requests for evidence are going way up.” Wagreich further advises his clients to call legal counsel long before they’ve decided to hire someone. “A big mistake lots of people make is waiting too long,” he adds.

Visit the Super Lawyers directory to find an experienced immigration attorney in your area. For more information on the immigration system and this area of law, see our immigration overview.

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