The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses Form I-9 to verify the identity of individuals who have been hired for employment in the United States and that they are legally authorized to work in the U.S. Though all employers in the United States are tasked with making sure their new hires have completed the document on or before the employees first day of work, recent updates to the process may leave even seasoned HR professionals uncertain about how to proceed.
In addition, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced that the agency will quadruple the number of Form I-9 on-site worksite inspections in the coming year. The process, initiated by serving an employer with a Notice of Inspection, will require providing copies of Forms I-9 in as few as three business days. Failure to do so, and even minor paperwork mistakes, can result in penalties.
It’s now more important than ever to understand the Form I-9 requirements and use the most current form so that your organization remains compliant with these guidelines.
Who must complete a Form I-9?
All businesses in the United States with employees hired after November 6, 1986, are responsible for ensuring that newly hired employees complete a Form I-9, regardless of citizenship. The process requires participation by both employee and employer to properly complete the form.
- By signing the Form I-9 and providing acceptable documentation (as noted on the Form I-9 List of Acceptable Documents), an employee confirms his or her identity and that he or she is authorized to be employed in the United States. He or she presents government-issued identification to the employer, to prove his or her identity and eligibility to legally work.
- Upon presentation and verification of the acceptable document(s), the employer signs the Form I-9 attesting to the fact that the documentation appears genuine, and retains a copy of the Form I-9. Employers are required to accept whatever forms of identification prospective employees present, provided they are on the list of acceptable documents. Mandating that employees provide certain documents on the list (such as a driver's license and Social Security card), but refusing others that the list classifies as valid, is considered a discriminatory hiring practice.
Per the USCIS' definitions, the term "employer" includes recruiters and referrers for a fee, including agricultural associations, agricultural employers, or farm labor contractors. An "employee" is defined as anyone who performs labor or services in the United States for an employer in return for wages or other remuneration. Volunteers, unpaid interns, independent contractors, or those engaged in some types of casual domestic employment (such as babysitters) are not required to complete an I-9. However, employers should ensure accurate classification of workers to mitigate potential violations.
What changes have been made to the Form I-9?
Effective September 18, 2017, employers must begin using the revised Form I-9 (dated 7/17/17) for all newly hired employees; any previous version of the I-9 is no longer considered valid. It is not necessary for employers to request current employees to provide a new Form I-9.
Aside from using the updated Form I-9, the changes to the form itself are minor. For example, some basic edits were made to language used on the instructions page, and the List of Acceptable Documents (List C). For example, the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS 240) was added and, with the exception of a Social Security Card, all list C documents were renumbered.
The cost of non-compliance
Though the changes may not seem substantial, it's imperative for all U.S.-based employers to comply with the most recent standards and requirements for employment verification. Employers not compliant with the current Form I-9 paperwork process may be subject to civil and criminal fines ranging from as much as $216 to $2,156 per form.
Visit the USCIS website to download a copy of Form I-9, and follow updates as they happen. Should your business receive a Notice of Inspection and/or need assistance with Form I-9 compliance, Paychex can help.