by Andrew P. Galeziowski, Esq.
Are your I-9s in order? More and more employers are finding themselves under scrutiny from inspectors from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
They’re looking for evidence that employers are complying with federal laws that require verification of every employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. To do so, they’re carefully examining I-9 forms, the Employment Eligibility Verification Form that employers must maintain for all employees.
The pattern of increased work site enforcement by ICE, which started in April 2009, shows no signs of slowing down. In the latest in a series of audit “blitzes,” more than 500 employers across the country were targeted to receive “Form I-9 Notices of Inspection,” the letter that marks the start of an ICE I-9 audit.
New tool to help I-9 compliance
Employers now have a new tool to help them stay on the right side of the law. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released an updated version of its I-9 Handbook for Employers. The new edition provides several critical revisions to the prior version.
You can view and download the updated version from the USCIS web site. Visit www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf.
The box below lists many of the revisions and new information appearing in the latest version of the handbook.
New guidance, more clarity?
Even with all of the clarifications in the new document—it runs more than 60 pages—there are still many unanswered questions.
Confusion is still possible in the “simple” process of completing I-9s. (The I-9 instructions indicate that it should only take about 12 minutes to complete the form, but HR professionals know that it sometimes takes longer.) The sheer number of documents to be considered complicates the exercise.
For example, there are more than 50 different valid versions of the Social Security card, yet only one sample appears in the handbook. There are more than 50 driver’s licenses and government identification cards that can be used as List B documents. At least 50 jurisdictions and government agencies can issue birth certificates that can be used as List C documents.
This leaves an employer with thousands of possible document combinations that may be accepted for I-9 purposes. It’s no wonder that many expect an electronic verification system (such as the government’s E-Verify tool) will be in widespread use by almost all employers within the next decade.
What employers should do
Until then, expect the government to continue to conduct I-9 audits of employers. That means employers must continue to review and seek maximum compliance in maintaining their I-9 records.
Among the steps every employer should consider:
- Regularly review I-9 policies.
- Implement training for HR staff on how to complete I-9 forms.
- Perform self-audit of I-9 records.
Completing these steps is likely to reduce potential fines and the chances of other sanctions being imposed should your company be the subject of an ICE I-9 audit.
Author: Andrew P. Galeziowski is of counsel in Ogletree Deakins’ Atlanta office. Contact him at (404) 881-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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