Every single employer in the U.S. is required to make sure a Form I-9 is completed properly for each employee, and it must be filled out regardless of the employee’s immigration status, meaning that both American citizens and noncitizens must have a form on file.
Not having a properly completed form I-9 can result in fines of $216 to $2,156 per form. Recently, the number of I-9 audits has increased dramatically, so it is important to make sure I-9s are being completed accurately and on time for every new employee.
Although the form I-9 may appear to be a simple document, those managing I-9 compliance are aware that immigration compliance is a complicated issue with vast requirements for employers to follow and understand. Since September, 2017, there is yet another requirement. On July 17, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a revised Form I-9. Following the end of the grace period, all employers are required to use the new Form I-9 for all new hires. The easiest way to identify the new form is by the date (07/17/17) noted in the bottom left corner.
Updates to Form I-9
- The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer are able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Sections 2 and 3. E-Verify users are also able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
- All of the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350, and Form FS-240) are combined into selection C #2 in List C.
- All List C documents, except the Social Security card, are renumbered.
- The name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) is changed to Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) within the form instructions.
- “The end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment” has been removed from the instructions.
Of particular use for employers is that there is a newly revised version of the M-274: Handbook for Employers, as a very comprehensive guide for employers who have any questions or issues regarding the completion of an I-9.
Form I-9 Requirements
Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), employers must receive and verify proof of identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. within three days of hire. If an employer fails to verify the identity and employment authorization of an employee, they are in violation of federal immigration law. In order to avoid this, they need to fulfil the following requirements:
- To comply with the IRCA, the employee must complete section one of the I-9 on the very first day of employment. This can be completed after the employee has accepted the job, but not before.
- The employer must review the employee’s original documents and attest under penalty of perjury that the employee provided the documents and they were legitimate. The review must be done by the person signing the form I-9.
- The employee must provide one document from list A or one document from list B and one document from list C.
- Unless proper documentation is provided within the required time frame, the employee must cease working immediately until all requirements are met and the I-9 form is completed.
- It is important to note that I-9 forms should be kept separate from all other personal documents outside of the employee personnel file.
Consequences of I-9 Non-Compliance
Employers could be facing large fines and penalties unless they comply with I-9 requirements. Penalties can be imposed for hiring unauthorized workers as well as for committing paperwork violations, even if all employees are authorized to work.
Although efforts to combat unauthorized immigration were taken by earlier administrations as well, the current administration brings a renewed enforcement approach, including enforcement related hiring and an increased budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Employers need to prepare for form I-9 audits and more severe compliance reviews by taking steps like: undertaking self-audits, making sure to use the updated I-9 form, properly monitoring employment authorization expiration dates for form I-9 re-verifications, purging outdated I-9 forms, and reviewing existing practices, procedures and technology options.
Avoiding Fines with Innovative Technology
Documenting and verifying eligibility can be a complex process affected by constantly changing legislation. Mistakes expose employers to fines and place them at risk, especially if they rely on traditional paper-based programs.
Electronic I-9 solutions offer employers a possibility to create, manage and store I-9s securely while ensuring their compliance with federal requirements for employment eligibility. Designed for ease-of-use and seamless integration with existing HR and onboarding platform, an automated process prevents further completion of the form I-9 unless information entered into every field is accurate and compliant.
Adopting the E-Verify program for all employees eliminates the risk of fines or prosecution, even if an ineligible employee is unknowingly hired. Given that it is likely to become mandatory nationwide, it is cost-efficient for employers to opt for a technologically advanced solution fully integrated with E-Verify, reduce data entry time and eliminate the possibilities of errors.
Update and Comply
It’s more important than ever for employers to ensure they have proper procedures in place, as fines related to I-9 non-compliance have nearly doubled, demonstrating the government’s increased efforts to enforce federal immigration laws more vigorously.
Unlike some federal documents that remain unchanged for years, the form I-9 updates are more common. Staying up-to-date with new form I-9 changes is a must for every employer. While this particular revision to the form I-9 does not have huge impact on hiring processes, it requires everyone involved in I-9 verification to use the most updated version in order to avoid form violations and fines.
Automated I-9 software programs help employers stay compliant by taking the burden of monitoring and enforcing I-9 form changes off their HR teams. Online I-9 verification tools automatically update with any new I-9 form paperwork and requirements, so employers can be confident that every employee completing the Form I-9 is using the most updated version. Additionally, electronic solutions offer I-9 and E-Verify workflows optimized to guide employers and new hires through the I-9 verification process quickly and easily, while reducing risk for non-compliance, fines and penalties.Learn how you can outsource I-9 verification, prevent mistakes and heavy fines, and improve compliance.