Administrative Affairs

Reminders about state laws on open meetings and public records and updates on a federal visa program.

By: Eric Conde, M.S.A., CFAAMA

As federal and University of Florida policies and statutes are amended, it is important to stay abreast of government and university regulations that affect the divisions, departments and the college as a whole. In this article, we highlight three important topics to yield better understanding and institutional compliance.

Government in the Sunshine

In accordance with Florida’s laws on open meetings and public records, search committees must post notices of meetings (done centrally on the college website) within a reasonable period before gathering, must conduct open meetings, and must create and maintain basic minutes promptly. All written documents made or received by the search committee are public, with few exceptions. Personal notes kept by an individual solely for his or her own use and not shared with others are not public records.

Committee members may not communicate outside an open meeting, in any medium, about any matter that will come before the search committee for action. Any time two or more committee members are gathered to discuss, or otherwise communicate about, matters that will come before the committee for action, the Open Meetings Law is in effect. Other than to arrange meetings and similar matters that are not part of the decision-making process, do not discuss — including via email — anything in regard to the search with other committee members outside of committee meetings. (This is a general summary. For specific advice, contact the associate dean for administrative affairs.)

UF policy on email as public records

It is the policy of the University of Florida that all employees comply with Florida’s public records law and state retention schedules for public records, including email.

Email created or received by University of Florida employees in connection with official business — which perpetuates, communicates or formalizes knowledge — is subject to the public records law and open for inspection. For more information, click here.

Anticipating changes to the H-1B program

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources sponsored a special webinar in May. The topic, “Anticipating Changes to the H-1B Program,” was presented by Andrew Greenfield, a partner at Fragomen Worldwide, and Jill Blitstein, international employment manager of human resources at North Carolina State University. Fragomen Worldwide is the immigration law firm for the University of Florida.

The webinar highlighted how President Donald Trump’s executive orders have impacted — and may continue to impact — the process by which institutions of higher education deal with hiring foreign national faculty and staff. Aside from the president’s executive orders, which have been highlighted in the media, the seminar touched on other immigration legislation that could affect how colleges and universities manage their visa programs.

The main takeaway from the webinar is there has been an increase in site visits to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security. Colleges and universities should maintain complete and accurate files for each foreign national employee and be prepared to verify work locations. FDNS inspectors will also visit off-site work locations to confirm the foreign national employee is there. Employers must also be prepared to provide proof of salary, job title and any other immigration-related documents requested by inspectors. So far, the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville has had only one inspection, which took place in 2012.

Cherise Conte-Bush, our coordinator of immigration services, outlines a few ways we can help ensure UF COMJ remains compliant with immigration processes and laws:

  • Work locations — When hiring a foreign national, be sure to inform the Office of Administrative Affairs of all work locations, as they must be listed on the visa petition. Do not allow a foreign national employee to work at a location not listed on their visa.
  • Changes in title, duties or work location — Any changes in job title, duties or work location require an amendment to the foreign national employee’s visa. Before offering a new position, title or work location to a foreign national employee, contact the Office of Administrative Affairs. These changes cannot occur until we have petitioned to amend the original visa. This rule does not apply to green card holders.
  • Change in status — If a foreign national employee has a change in status, such as receipt of a green card, it is extremely important he or she notifies the Office of Administrative Affairs immediately. It is important our employment verification (I-9) forms reflect an employee’s current visa or resident status.
  • International travel — If a foreign national employee plans to travel outside the United States, he or she should notify the Office of Administrative Affairs and provides dates of travel beforehand. Also, it is important to retain a copy of travel documents, such as airline ticket receipts, as this will be very useful in recapturing time for a visa extension, if required.
  • Premium Processing suspension — Premium Processing, which guarantees employers will receive a response (i.e., approval, denial or request for evidence) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within 15 days of submitting a petition, is currently suspended. With the suspension of the program, departments wishing to hire a foreign national should be aware it can take anywhere from six to eight months to receive an approval notice from USCIS. However, processing can take longer, so we can’t guarantee a start date. If you have any questions regarding immigration at UF COMJ, contact Conte-Bush at 904-244-3471.