U.S. employers must begin using the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) new Form I-9 by Dec. 26.
Final approval of the new form—plus a decision by the government not to contest for now a court decision that suspended new rules on handling no-match letters—brings to a close a busy fall season in which employers’ role in immigration enforcement has been in the spotlight.
The federal government in recent years has stepped up action against U.S. employers that hire illegal immigrants. Checking I-9 forms and using no-match letters from the Social Security Administration have been key tools in the government’s arsenal.
Start using new I-9 now
Employers must complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form (Form I-9) for each new hire to verify the person’s identity and work eligibility. (You need to use new I-9 version only for new hires. You don’t need to complete new forms for existing employees. However, you must use the new I-9 when employees require reverification.)
You can start using the new form now—and you must use it starting on Dec. 26.
Download a copy of the new I-9 form from the USCIS web site. The new version carries an internal revision date of “(Rev.06/05/07)” on the bottom right corner of the form.
Better yet, bookmark the USCIS I-9 web site—the electronic version of the form is interactive, which makes it possible to complete and store the form on a computer.
Fewer acceptable forms of ID
The new form reduces by five the number of documents employees may use to prove their eligibility to work in the United States. Employers may no longer accept the following documents when filling out Section 2 of the form, which asks employers to “review and verify” employees’ identity documents:
- Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561)
- Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570)
- Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-151)
- Unexpired Reentry Permit (Form I-327)
- Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571).
A USCIS statement said the five documents were no longer acceptable proof because “they lack features to help deter counterfeiting, tampering, and fraud.”
In addition to reducing the number of acceptable documents, the new I-9 form clarifies that it is voluntary for employees to provide their Social Security numbers on Section 1, unless their employers participate in USCIS's Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Program, also known as E-Verify.
New format, font and grammar changes aim to make the I-9 more readable and user-friendly.
DHS gives up on no-match rules
Meanwhile, the government’s effort to enact tough new rules on how employers must respond to no-match letters have stalled for this year. On Nov. 23, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asked a California federal judge to suspend a case filed by a coalition of labor, business and civil rights organizations that joined forces to protest the proposed rules.
No-match letters flag discrepancies between employee names and the Social Security numbers they provide to employers. The proposed DHS rules—put forth in August—sought to use no-match letters to crack down on employment of illegal immigrants.
Employers’ had two choices when no-match discrepancies couldn’t be resolved: fire workers or face stiff fines.
The new rules were a lightning rod for criticism. They would have taken effect in mid-September, but the coalition sued to stop implementation. They argued the new DHS rules would lead to increased discrimination against foreign-born workers and require employers to enforce complicated immigration laws with no expertise and experience in that area. The suit contended many employers would simply fire immigrants rather than follow the new procedures. Additionally, it argued DHS did not have the legal authority to issue the rules without congressional action.
Two federal courts in California agreed, first issuing a restraining order and then a temporary injunction that prohibits DHS from enforcing the rules.
DHS’s request to suspend the case means there will be no further action on no-match letters this year. The temporary injunction for now prohibits the Social Security Administration from sending out the letters.
DHS will likely spend the next several months rewriting the rules to address the concerns the lawsuit raised.
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