Hiring lawful permanent residents as employees gives employers the ability to pull from a larger pool of eligible workers and brings added diversity to their company. However, with these benefits comes a small amount of risk. Compliance with I-9 reporting requirements remains a challenge for employers, but proper documentation is crucial in avoiding fines and penalties. Employers may designate anyone of their choice to be an “authorized representative” to complete Section 2, but the employer remains liable for any violations made by that person. Audits from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are being conducted more frequently than ever, and if employers are found non-compliant, penalties can exceed $20,000 per violation for frequent and knowledgeable violators.
A new version of Form I-9, the employment eligibility verification form has been issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The new form is also available as an electronic, fillable form, while the previous form is paper-only. Beginning May 1st, 2020, employers will only be given the option to use the electronic version for new hires. Download the new version of the form here.
The new form I-9 includes the following minor changes, many of which are only visible when completing the electronic version:
- Additional countries listed in the “Country of Issuance” field in Section 1
- Clarification regarding who can act as an “authorized representative” of an employer.
- Clarifications pertaining to acceptable documents.
- Clarification that the List C of documents establishing employment authorization does not include a worker’s Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that contains a photograph. List C documents include items like a Social Security card and birth certificate, while an EAD remains a List A document.
According to the DHS, U.S. employers “must properly complete Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States,” including both citizens and noncitizens. Employers should take care to follow the guidelines closely, as asking for too much documentation from certain employees can be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit. Employers can not directly ask employees for additional documentation or accuse them of fraudulent documents, but should instead move forward with submitting the Form I-9 and allowing the E-verify to confirm or deny eligibility.
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