Basics on the I-9 Verification Form
The I-9 form was created in 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act to protect American jobs and to cut down on illegal immigration. It makes it difficult for American companies to hire employees who don’t have authorization to work here, especially to knowingly do so. The I-9 has three sections: One for new hires to fill out, including biographical info and immigration status, a second for the employer to fill out, and a third to be completed if the new hire has a temporary work authorization.
An employer must have a completed version of the form within 3 days of the new hire start date. (The first section must be filled out by the new hire by the end of their first day at work.) You must do this for every new employee: citizens, new immigrants, etc. Every field must be filled out, especially because you can be fined in an audit up to $100 for every field that’s skipped or $1,000 for every missing or incomplete form. HR and payroll companies find this is worth noting because especially in today’s world of rampant fraud and scams, new hires may be hesitant to give information like their social security number. However, to reach compliance, you’ll need to push somebody for it if they resist giving any information.
As of May 1st, there is a new I-9 form that you must use for anybody hired past that date. You can find the form here. This form has been updated in sections 1 and 2, as well as in the instruction section. If you don’t use the new form, you’ll be in violation under section 274A of the INA as enforced by ICE and might incur financial liabilities if audited.
While you might talk to your HR consulting company if you have further questions, you can also consult the USCIS ‘Handbook for Employers- Guidance for Completing Form I-9.’ This handbook is also referred to as the M-274. It addresses changes to policy and regulations since 2017.
Changes to the I-9 Verification Form Right Now
Beyond the new form that you must use, you should also be aware that currently there is a change in the physical inspection rules for this form. Normally in your HR planning, you’d expect to physically inspect the documents your new hires bring in within 3 days of their start date. However, due to COVID, this requirement has been suspended for companies that are operating remotely (if your employees are largely operating normally and from the office, this won’t be applicable).
You can now receive the documents as scans or emails, then write in the Additional Information field ‘COVID-19.’ (You should also keep written documentation of this onboarding and share your telework policy with the new hire at this time.) When your team returns to the office, or within 3 days of the COVID National Emergency being declared over, your human resources planning should include some time to request and physically inspect the documents you couldn’t due to COVID. You’ll add two things to the Additional Information field: the date and ‘documents physically examined.’
Best HR Strategies for I-9 Compliance
Knowing the costly consequences of not being in compliance with I-9 forms, here are some of the best HR strategies for keeping up with requirements.
- Don’t dilly-dally in getting I-9 forms completed from the employee side. It can be hard to get an employee to come back into HR to deal with documents, so many HR teams actually have a new hire complete the form prior to their first day.
- Never ask for specific documents from new hires. You run the risk of allegations of discrimination, document abuse, fines, or lawsuits. Let the employee choose which identity documents he or she will provide.
- Create one centralized HR management system where you keep all I-9 forms. If you keep them digitally, that’s fine. You just must be able to produce them within 3 days of a government request.
- Remember that I-9 forms are full of sensitive information, so ensure that they’re safe and secure from anybody’s eyes but yours.
- Keep all I-9 forms for at least one year after the date an employee leaves your company or for three years after their hire date, whichever is later
- Set up a system that tracks when temporary work authorizations expire. You may have H-1B workers of F-1 students. If their visas expire when they’re employed with your company or organization, you’ll need to take action.
- Consider using HR software like MP’s for your I-9 needs. It allows employees to fill out the documents easily on a digital platform whenever and wherever they want. You can easily store and access completed I-9s and there’s even a tickler system to help you track any expiring temporary work visas.
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