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Ensure I-9 Compliance with Lawful Employment Eligibility Verification

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 9/16/2010

I-9 compliance protects employers against worker discrimination allegations and legal actions by the federal government. Although the idea of filling out an employment verification form sounds complicated, the I-9 form is actually quite straight forward.

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    Behind I-9 Compliance

    I-9 Screenshot: Employee Section The I-9 form helps companies to verify each new-hire’s employment eligibility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)(1) advises that businesses must prepare an employment verification form for each worker who was hired after November 6, 1986. In conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, the agencies publish the I-9 form and keep it updated.

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    Guide to Filling out the Employment Eligibility Verification Form

    1. Download the latest version of the I-9 form(2). The current form expires on 08-31-12.
    2. Hire the most qualified applicant for an open position.
    3. Direct the new employee to (legibly) fill out Section 1 of Form I-9 before starting actual employment. The new worker must disclose a full name (and maiden name, if applicable), current address, date of birth, social security number and attest whether s/he is a citizen, non-citizen US national (i.e. a worker from Samoa or a US territory), permanent resident or immigrant with a work authorization. In the latter two cases, the new-hire must also enter the alien registration number and/or admission number with the work authorization’s expiration date. If there is a language barrier, the employee may choose a translator to help with the process; this entity must furnish business information and attest to correctly transcribing the worker’s answers.
    4. The employer reviews and completes Section 2 of the employment verification form. Remember that there is a three-day time limit to complete this process! The burden of ensuring completion of Section 1 falls on the shoulders of the employer. In addition, a visual inspection of the documents the new worker references is a must.
    5. File the form in the personnel record of the worker. Do not send it to the USCIS or other federal entities. Instead, have it handy for a possible wage and hour audit, which features an I-9 compliance check as part of its procedures.
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    Common I-9 Compliance Questions

    Screenshot of Form I-9: Employer Section Social Security Number

    The new-hire may refuse to print a social security number on the form I-9 unless a company participates in the USCIS E-Verify Program. In this case the worker must furnish the number on the form.

    Exceptions

    An employer is relieved from the obligation of preparing employment eligibility verification if the worker is hired as:

    • An intermittent domestic worker
    • An idependent contractor
    • A leased worker

    Re-verification

    An employer must periodically update form I-9 to ensure continued compliance. This is the case if the employee’s name changes or a work authorization expires. Companies must update the I-9 if rehiring a worker within three years of the original form’s preparation. If the rehire takes place thereafter, the business must fill out a new form.

    Refusal

    A worker has the legal right to refuse filling out the employment eligibility verification form. That being said, she or he may not begin actual work for a business until the information is given.

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    As you can see, employment verification with form I-9 is a simple process. Remember to stay compliant even after terminating the worker. Follow USCIS guidelines(3) and keep the documentation in the worker’s personnel file for one year after the last day of work.

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    Sources

    1. http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/m-274.pdf
    2. http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-9.pdf
    3. http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=31b3ab0a43b5d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD

    Photo Credits: Screenshots of Form I-9 courtesy of the USCIS at http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/m-274.pdf