When it comes to hiring and employment verification in the United States, one document stands out as a cornerstone of workforce compliance: Form I-9. This form is not just a mere piece of paperwork but a critical tool that plays a vital role in ensuring that only individuals eligible to work are employed. As hiring managers, executives, and business owners, comprehending what Form I-9 is and navigating its requirements are essential for maintaining legal operations and a diversified workplace.
What Is Form I-9?
Form I-9, officially known as the Employment Eligibility Verification form, is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) document required by federal law to verify the identity and employment eligibility of individuals hired for employment in the United States. Every employer must ensure that each new hire properly completes this form.
History and Purpose of Form I-9
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 mandated the use of Form I-9 to prevent the hiring of individuals not legally authorized to work in the U.S. It is an integral part of legal hiring practices and helps to deter illegal immigration by denying employment opportunities to those without legal status.
Components of the Form
Form I-9 consists of three sections:
- Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation – This part of the form must be completed by the employee by their first day of employment, confirming their identity and eligibility to work in the United Sates.
- Section 2: Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification – Employers must complete this section within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment. This involves inspecting documents provided by the employee that demonstrate their identity and eligibility to work.
- Section 3: Reverification and Rehires – This section is completed by employers if the employee is rehired within three years of the initial hire date or if the employee’s work authorization or documentation of work authorization has expired.
What Form I-9 Means for Employers
For employers, compliance with Form I-9 requirements is non-negotiable. It is their responsibility to provide the form, ensure its correct completion, and retain it for a designated period. Below are key implications of Form I-9 for employers:
- Legal Compliance: Failure to comply with Form I-9 requirements can result in legal penalties, including fines and sanctions. It is therefore crucial for employers to follow the prescribed process meticulously.
- Record-Keeping: Employers must retain completed Form I-9s for either three years after the date of hire or one year after the end of employment, whichever is later.
- Ongoing Management: In situations where employees’ work authorizations are set to expire, employers must reverify that the employees remain eligible to work in the U.S. This means periodically updating Form I-9.
- Training and Processes: Given the complexity and legal implications of Form I-9, employers often need to train HR staff on the proper protocols, auditing, and retention policies associated with these forms.
What Form I-9 Means for Employees
From the employee’s perspective, Form I-9 is evidence of their legal right to work in the United States. What’s more, it demands attention to detail and an understanding of the documents required for verification.
- Proof of Eligibility: Employees must provide documents that establish both their identity and employment authorization. The list of acceptable documents is categorized into List A (establishing both identity and employment eligibility), List B (establishing identity), and List C (establishing employment eligibility).
- Timeliness: Employees are required to complete Section 1 of Form I-9 by their first day of employment. Delay in the provision of documents may delay or prevent the commencement of employment.
- Privacy: Form I-9 requires employees to share personal documentation with their employer. The employer must ensure these documents are handled appropriately and that employees’ personal information is protected.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
- Failing to sign or date the form.
- Not using the most current Form I-9 available from USCIS.
- Accepting documents that do not appear to be genuine or do not relate to the person presenting them.
- Asking employees for specific documents rather than allowing them to choose from the list of acceptable documents.
- Not re-verifying work authorization for employees when necessary.
Understanding Form I-9 and adhering to its requirements are fundamental responsibilities for U.S. employers and employees alike. Proper execution of the form not only complies with the law but also instills a sense of security and order in the employment process. For employers, it’s about maintaining legitimacy and avoiding penalties, and for employees, it is about affirming their eligibility to embark on fruitful employment journeys. By staying vigilant and proactive about Form I-9 procedures, businesses can solidify their commitment to legal employment practices and foster a compliant and inclusive workforce.