Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification and Compliance Training
Form I-9 is a crucial component of the employment eligibility verification process in the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires employers to complete Form I-9 for all employees to confirm their identity and eligibility to work in the country. Compliance training is essential to ensure that employers understand the requirements and properly execute the verification process.
When and How to Complete Form I-9
The Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, must be completed for all employees who are working physically within the United States. Employers are not obligated to verify independent contractors, but in the event of an audit, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) generally may look past the employer’s classification of “independent contractor” where the worker should be reclassified as an employee based upon the U.S. company’s control over the services provided and other employee versus independent contractor considerations.
Civil and even criminal fines and penalties may arise from failures with I-9 compliance, including non-completion or improper completion of the Form I-9 as well as employment of unauthorized workers. Knowing employment of unauthorized workers generally leads to more significant penalties.
Key Elements of Form I-9
- Employee Information – Section 1 of the form collects personal information such as name, date of birth, social security number, and immigration status. This Section must be completed on or before the first day of employment.
- Document Verification – Employees must present acceptable documents to establish their identity and eligibility for employment. The Form I-9 includes a page with the types of documents which must be presented, requiring either a List A document which satisfies both identity and employment eligibility (ex. U.S. Passport or Lawful Permanent Resident Card) or both a List B (identity, ex. Driver’s License) and List C (employment eligibility, ex. Social Security Card) documents.
- Employer Verification – Employers are responsible for reviewing and verifying the authenticity of the original documents provided by employees. They must complete the employer section of Form I-9 on or before the third day of employment.
- Legal Requirements – Training programs should cover the legal requirements outlined in the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) that mandate the completion of Form I-9 for all employees. The M-274 Handbook for Employers is the official guidance provided by USCIS for completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The M-274 Handbook offers comprehensive instructions for employers regarding the proper procedures for verifying the identity and employment eligibility of their employees. It covers topics such as the acceptable documents for verification, completing Form I-9 sections, avoiding discrimination, and maintaining compliance.
- Non-Discrimination Practices – Employers must be educated on the importance of avoiding discrimination during the verification process. All employees, regardless of their national origin or citizenship status, must be treated equally. It’s important to limit questions about immigration status to completion of the form, and prior to employment, employers should limit any such questions to “Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for employment authorization?” It’s further not appropriate to reverify the employment eligibility of a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, who have indefinite work authorization regardless of the expiration dates of their documents, whereas noncitizens with temporary work authorization should be reverified.
- Recordkeeping – Be prepared for potential audits by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). U.S. employers must retain completed Form I-9s during the entirety of a worker’s employment, and in the event of termination of employment, I-9s must be retained for three (3) years from the date of hire or for one (1) year from the date employment is terminated, whichever is later. It’s important to establish a corporate I-9 policy, which would include whether to retain copies of the documents presented by the employee, which can be helpful for corrections later, but can also be additional records to maintain and be second-guessed by auditors later.
Common Pitfalls and Best Practices
- Timely Completion – Employers should stress the importance of completing Form I-9 within the required timeframes noted above to avoid penalties for non-compliance.
- Document Verification Procedures – Training should cover the proper procedures for reviewing and verifying employee documents to ensure accuracy and compliance with legal standards.
- Updates and Changes – Regular training sessions are essential to keep employers informed about any changes to Form I-9 requirements and to address any common errors.
- Beware of Electronic Databases and Service Providers – Electronic storage and retention may be appealing, but often records are either stored improperly or not in compliance, either due to the software or user input issues. The “old school” method of retaining paper I-9 records may be best to minimize the potential for issues and saves money otherwise paid to these companies.
Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification and Compliance Training is a vital component of legal and ethical employment practices in the U.S. It ensures that employers understand their responsibilities, follow proper procedures, and maintain compliance with immigration laws. Regular training sessions contribute to a seamless verification process and help prevent potential legal issues associated with non-compliance.
The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.