CgeorgeOver the last few months, I’ve had a few opportunities to use my legal background to help shed some light on refugee resettlement.

Back in February, I helped Connecticut lawyers introduce and sponsor a resolution at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting calling for Congress to provide legal protections and sufficient funding for refugee resettlement.

And yesterday, I (along with many others within my firm, including my colleagues Brenda Eckert and Ashley Marshall) helped produce a program at my lawfirm on the issue. At various times during the year, we sponsor an “In Community” program that sheds light on issues impacting Connecticut.  The program yesterday focused on “Refugees and Resettlement: The Process and Protection Under the Law”.  My thanks to my firm for their leadership on this issue.

Among the speakers were Chris George, Executive Director, Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) (pictured) and Kimberly May-Bailey, MSM, Director of Migration, Refugee and Immigration Services, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Hartford.

The work that they are doing in Connecticut to help assist refugees who relocate to Connecticut is nothing short of amazing and my thanks also to them to sharing the story of their work for us.

One of the interesting aspects to come out of the discussion was that fact that refugees are expected to become self-sufficient pretty quickly upon arrival.  To make that transition happen, the U.S. Government actually allows refugees to start work legally in the United States immediately upon arrival.  As the government tells refugees:

As a refugee, you may work immediately upon arrival to the United States. When you are admitted to the United States you will receive a Form I-94 containing a refugee admission stamp.  Additionally, a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, will be filed for you in order for you to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). While you are waiting for your EAD, you can present your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, to your employer as proof of your permission to work in the United States.

For employers looking to help refugees, this is welcome news. Sometimes, employers may worry whether foreign nationals have sufficient documentation to allow them to work in the United States. With refugees, it’s clear from the outset that the answer is yes.

If you are willing to help, please contact IRIS or Catholic Charities.  There is always a need to help refugees.  As Chris George reminded us at the presentation, the Statute of Liberty reminds that that we take the tired and the poor and today’s refugees are among the most vulnerable we have in society.  Making sure that they can find work is one way to ensure that they can have a life to be proud of in the United States.

Part of an employer’s job is to review I-9 documentation at the start of employment, including Green Cards. But for employers, knowing what is real vs. fake, can be an issue.  My colleagues have prepared this update to one form of documentation that you should be on the lookout for.  The change is happening sooner than you might think.  

Understanding USERRA

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card, commonly known as the Green Card, and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. Although USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017, both existing and new cards will be valid until their expiration date.

The new designs use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features so that the resulting cards are more tamper-resistant and secure than those currently in use.  The new card designs demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking active measures to reduce the threat of document tampering and fraud. They are also part of an ongoing collaborative effort among USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The Redesigned Cards

The new Green Cards and EADs will display the individual’s photo on both sides. In addition, there will be unique graphic images and color palettes (Green Cards will bear an image of the Statue of Liberty on a predominantly green palette and EAD cards will display an image of a bald eagle on a predominantly red palette).  Each will have embedded holographic images and neither will display the individual’s signature anymore. Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017 may still display the existing design format, as USCIS will continue using existing stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card. For additional information on which EADs are covered, please visit the Temporary Protected Status and American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act web pages on uscis.gov.

Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date at all–these dateless ones will remain valid. Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date, however, may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date, so as to reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.