Question:

I hire a lot of seasonal employees around the holidays and I recently read somewhere that there are some recent changes to the Employment Eligibility Verification form I-9 procedures, but the form itself has not been changed. I am confused about what documents I have to review to make sure an employee is authorized to work in the United States. Also, I recently had an employee whose social security number did not match the records of the Social Security Administration. What should I do in that situation?

Answer:

You are correct in your understanding that the United States Customs and Immigration Services recently announced a change in the types of documents that are acceptable to establish identity and employment eligibility. These changes do not affect the I-9 form itself, but only change the acceptable “List A” documents contained on the third page of the I-9 form under the heading “List of Acceptable Documents.” The new changes are somewhat confusing because the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet revised the I-9 form.

Employers are required to review and verify specific documents to make sure a new employee is eligible to work in the United States. The employer must examine one document from List A or examine one document from List B AND one document from List C, and record the relevant information on the I-9 form. According to the United States Customs and Immigration Services, the new list of documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility under List A are:

  • U.S. Passport (unexpired or expired)
  • Unexpired foreign passport, with I-551 stamp or attached INS Form I-94 indicating unexpired employment authorization
  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card with photograph (INS Form I-551)
  • Unexpired Temporary Resident Card (INS Form I-688)
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Card (INS Form I-688 A)
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Document issued by the INS, which contains a photograph (INS Form I-688B), or Form I-766 (employment authorization document).

Employers are required to complete I-9 forms for all new employees within three business days after the employee begins work. The I-9 forms should be retained by the employer until the later of three years from the date of hire, or one year after termination employment.

Employers occasionally receive letters from the Social Security Administration advising them that a social security number being used by an employee does not match the records of the Social Security Administration. If you have received a letter from the Social Security Administration advising you of a mismatch, the employee’s eligibility to work may be in question. The most prudent steps to follow are to first check your records to insure that you are using the social security number that the employee provided to you. Common causes for mismatches may be a change in name or transposition of numbers. Secondly, you may notify the employee of the discrepancy and ask the employee to explain it. The Social Security Administration’s website, at www.socialsecurity.gov, provides guidance for an employee who has been notified by his/her employer of a mismatch in numbers. While the information you receive from the Social Security Administration does not imply that the employee intentionally gave incorrect information about the employee’s name or social security number, it does place the employer in the position to investigate the employee’s work status. The employer must give the employee an opportunity to explain the discrepancy and correct any error, and the employer must continue to pay wages for hours worked by the employee. In addition to the website, assistance on this issue can be obtained from the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
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