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New I-9 form plus no-Match letters complicate hiring process

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has just released a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for immediate use and a new M-274, Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing the Form I-9.

All employers are required to complete a Form I-9 for each employee hired in the United States. The USCIS has encouraged employers to start using the new form as soon as possible, but all employers must use it beginning Dec. 27, 2007. According to the USCIS, employers that fail to use the new Form I-9 after that date may incur fines and penalties.

The basic Form I-9 remains substantially the same as earlier versions, although the form and accompanying instructions appear to be more user-friendly than prior versions. The most significant changes were made to the form’s instructions, including:

Five documents have been removed from List A of the “List of Acceptable Documents”:

  1. Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561)
  2. Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570)
  3. Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-151)
  4. Unexpired Reentry Permit (Form I-327)
  5. Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571).

One document was added to List A of the “List of Acceptable Documents”: Unexpired Employment Authorization Document (I-766).

In addition, all the Employment Authorization Documents with photographs in circulation are now included as one item on List A.

Start using the new forms now

According to the USCIS, the new Form I-9 (dated June 5, 2007) can and should be used immediately. You can download a copy of the new Form I-9 at www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-9.pdf. The new handbook is located at www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/m274.pdf.

Immigration enforcement efforts

The I-9 update is long overdue. It coincides with an increasingly strong message from the Bush administration: Absent more comprehensive immigration reform, the federal government intends to step up enforcement of existing laws against illegal immigration—and employers that hire illegal workers will come under tighter scrutiny.

One such enforcement plan recently ground to a halt in federal court. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had planned to increase the use of so-called no-match letters from the Social Security Administration to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants. The Bush administration had proposed sending employers written notice whenever a new employee’s reported Social Security number (SSN) did not match that same employee’s stated name or other personal information. The idea was that employees whose information does not match up may be using bogus information or someone else’s SSN in order to work in the United States illegally.

After a judge issued a temporary restraining order forbidding the plan from taking effect, DHS decided to revisit its regulations on no-match compliance. Look for further developments on this issue in the spring of 2008.

Advice: Employers may want to take this opportunity to audit their existing I-9s and review their current policies and procedures.

Employers should not, in the meantime, turn away applicants based on preconceived notions of who may be a likely illegal immigrant. Refusing to consider applicants with Hispanic surnames, for example, is illegal national origin discrimination.

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