A New Era of I-9 Compliance

  • Mar 20 2017

President Trump and his administration have made immigration reform a top priority. Trump intends to focus his attention on illegal and legal immigrants alike. Considering the increased scrutiny, proper compliance with immigration requirements is more crucial than ever.  One of the most common pitfalls employers face is the proper completion of the I-9 Form.

The I-9 Form in General

Basically, as most employers already know, the I-9 is a form used to verify the identity and employment authorization any individual hired in the United States, whether they are a U.S. Citizen or not. The form must be completed by both the employee and the employer. The employee must attest to his/her employment authorization and identity. For noncitizens, this means they must be properly authorized to work in the U.S. The employer must verify the information.

This may sound simple enough, but can quickly become complicated, especially if there is a communication issues. Errors occur all too often and, if caught by an I-9 audit, an employer can face hefty fines and penalties, especially if there is any indication that the errors were made knowingly.

Out with Old, in with the New

Recently, the USCIS replaced the old I-9 with a new electronic version, designed to help both employers and employees navigate the form more efficiently and reduce some common mistakes.  For instance, spaces cannot be left blank, and the electronic form will “red flag” any missing information. In addition, the English version of the form has drop down lists to aid users in filling in the required information (interestingly, the Spanish form does not yet have this feature). There is also an “additional information” box provided so that employers can include relevant information not provided for elsewhere. (such as authorization extensions, termination dates, and so forth).

Unfortunately, not everything about the new electronic form is helpful, and there are certain changes that can actually confuse the process.  For instance, the instructions for completing the form have more than doubled in size from 7 pages to 15 pages, and are included as a separate document. The employer must provide these instructions to all employees, even if using a paper version of the form. In addition, the Preparer or Translator Certification is now a supplemental, separate document. This increases the likelihood that the Certification can be inadvertently omitted or lost, resulting in a violation. Employers must also abide by specific requirements relative to electronic signatures and storage of the form, which can complicate the process.

Some employers still prefer the old-fashioned paper method over the electronic form. However, President Trump has indicated a desire to make the “E-Verify” system mandatory so that the government can keep better track of I-9 compliance. Therefore, for better or for worse, employers should make the effort to adopt and adapt to the new electronic I-9 form.

Posted in: Employment Based Immigration