Question:

I can’t keep up with all the new employment law requirements this year, and now I am told there is a new I-9 form. Is this true, and can you give me some tips about managing the I-9 forms for my business?

Answer:

Earlier this year the federal government issued an updated version of the Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 form, and it plans to issue yet another version in the near future. The good news is that according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the current Form I-9 with the 02/02/09 revision date at the bottom of the form, and an “expiration date” of June 30, 2009, will continue to be valid. Employers can either use the current I-9, or the yet to be issued Form I-9 which will have a new revision date. The current I-9 form can be found on the USCIS website at
http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-9.pdf.

All U.S. employers must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. The employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the individual. The employer then must record information about the documents presented on the Form I-9.
Here are some tips for making sure your company is complying with I-9 requirements:

  • Designate one or two people to handle the I-9 process. Establish uniform procedures for obtaining the I-9’s, storing the I-9’s, and re-verifying eligibility when needed.
  • Do not ask applicants to complete an I-9 before a job offer is made because if the applicant is not hired, he or she may claim national origin or race discrimination.
  • Have your employees complete the I-9 form, section 1, on their first day of work.
  • Make sure you inspect the documents the employee presents to establish eligibility to make sure they appear genuine. You don’t have to be a document expert, but you should carefully inspect the documents and record which documents you looked at to establish identity and employment eligibility. You may, but are not required to, make copies of the documents you inspect.
  • Allow the employee to present the documents he or she chooses to establish eligibility. As long as the documents are listed as acceptable on the form I-9, and appear genuine, the employee may present the documents the employee chooses.
  • If the documents presented by the employee have an expiration date, make sure you calendar to ask the employee to re-verify eligibility 90-180 days before the document(s) expire. Expired documents are not valid to establish employment eligibility.
  • Maintain I-9’s for three years after the date of hire or for one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later. I-9’s must be available for inspection by authorized U.S. Government officials (e.g., Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, Office of Special Counsel). Some employers keep the I-9’s in a separate file, not in the employee’s personnel file. This may make it easier to respond to a USCIS audit of I-9 forms.

The USCIS has recently increased the number of I-9 audits it performs. If an employer fails to properly complete, retain, and/or make available for inspection Form I-9’s as required by law, the employer may face civil penalties in an amount of not less than $110 and not more than $1,100 for each violation.

I-9 compliance is important, and your procedures need to be consistent and complete. More information is available in the employer handbook issued by the USCIS, available at
http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/m-274.pdf.
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