Complying With the Most Recent Changes to Form I-9: A Quick Primer

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For organizations that fail to place a high priority on complying with the requirements detailed in Form I-9, the ramifications are often severe and long-lasting.

As efforts to enforce immigration regulations increase, a new wrinkle for employers comes in the form of a new version of the I-9 form. This form is required by the federal government for employers, and serves to verify an individual employee's legal right to work in the United States.

While the form remains relatively unchanged, the release of a new version provides businesses with a reminder of the importance of ensuring compliance with federal immigration law.

Q: What Does The New I-9 Form Entail?

A: The latest version includes minor changes to the instructions on how to complete the document. It also amends the list of acceptable documents that an employee may provide to document their legal authorization to assume an employee role within the United States.

Q. Who Must Complete the I-9 Form?

A: Employers must complete Form I-9 every time they hire a new employee. In fact, employers must have a completed form on file for any worker hired after Nov. 6, 1986, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Employers do not need to complete Form I-9 for those hired prior to Nov. 6, 1986, independent contractors, individuals employed by contractors or agencies or those not physically working on U.S. soil.

Q. Do I Need to Keep Completed Forms for Previous Employees?

Employers must retain a completed form for each person on the organization's payroll for one year after separation, or three years after their date of hire, whichever is later. The USCIS agency provides a simple table to determine the exact holding period.

Q. When Should Your Organization Conduct I-9 Compliance Audits to Ensure That Your Information Is Accurate and Up to Date?

Given that employers could get as little as three days to produce completed forms under federal law, organizations cannot put off compliance. Depending on the number of employees your business hires each year, conduct a review of Form I-9 compliance on at least a quarterly basis. The federal government penalizes organizations for noncompliance based on how often it fails to comply. Therefore, the more time that elapses between compliance reviews, the greater the potential for huge fines.

Q. How Can You Effectively Conduct This Form of an Audit?

If you don't have one already, compile an up-to-date list of active employees. Ensure that completed Form I-9s exist for every individual. If the matching process uncovers missing forms, complete new forms immediately. Remember: the federal government must provide an organization with only three days notice of their intent to inspect your completed forms.

Q. What Are the Financial Consequences If Your Organization Fails to Be Compliant With the New Form?

The penalties and fines associated with Form I-9 vary according to the type and frequency of violation. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency provides an overview of the I-9 inspection process, and associated penalties. On a per incident basis, fines range from $110 to $1,100 for substantive or uncorrected technical violations, and $375 to $16,000 per violation for knowingly hiring someone without the authorization to assume paid employment, with repeat offenders receiving penalties at the higher end, according to ICE.

ICE also reserves the right to increase a fine by as much as 25 percent according to a host of factors including the size of the business, and its commitment to compliance.

For organizations that fail to place a high priority on complying with the requirements detailed in Form I-9, the ramifications are often severe and long-lasting. Thankfully, while Form I-9 places an administrative burden on employers, in comparison to many other forms of employment regulation, achieving compliance is a relatively straightforward process.