Is Your Business in Compliance?
The federal government is responsible for ensuring that hundreds of millions of workers are authorized to work in the U.S., and the burden of proof falls on employers. With dozens of unique forms, identity documents, and eligibility situations, it can be daunting to keep track of all of your employees and maintain compliance with the appropriate agencies.
Completing the I-9 paperwork
The I-9 form is the central document that is used by USCIS to verify that all employees working within the U.S. are authorized to do so. Employers are required to fill out an I-9 form for all employees at the company and file the paperwork accordingly with the appropriate federal agencies for review.
In the process of completing the form, employers are required to examine specific documents that prove the employee’s eligibility to work in the United States, and to provide copies of the documents along with the I-9 paperwork that is sent to the federal government.
Broadly speaking, these documents must prove both the identity of the employee, as well as their eligibility to work in the U.S. If a single document satisfies both requirements it is acceptable by itself. Some examples include:
- a U.S. passport or passport card
- A permanent resident card
- A foreign passport with a valid visa and I-551 stamp
- An employment authorization card with a photo
- And more
In cases where an employee does not possess a document that satisfies both requirements, they must present a document that establishes their identity, and a separate document that details their authorization to work. For an employee to establish their identity, they can use items such as a state driver’s license or ID card, a voter registration card, a U.S. military ID, a Native American tribal document, a Canadian driver’s license, etc. If an employee needs to show they are authorized to work in the US, some acceptable documents may include an unrestricted U.S. social security card, an original or certified copy of a birth certificate, a U.S. citizen ID card, and more.
The penalties can be severe for employers who have not properly filed their I-9 paperwork. Companies can be subject to fines and be debarred from receiving government contracts in the future. If a business is found to be a habitual I-9 violator, they can be subject to criminal penalties.
The E-verify system
E-verify is a recent initiative designed to make it easier for employers to collect and submit information related to employee immigration compliance. It is a web-based program that is voluntary for employers to use, unlike the I-9 paperwork, which is required in all circumstances.
In essence, the E-verify program takes submitted information from the I-9 form and compares it to digital records in government databases to corroborate the employee’s authorization to work.
There are some notable differences involved in utilizing E-verify versus only using the normal I-9 form. Notably, a social security number is required to use E-verify, and submitted documents that prove identity must include a photograph in order to be valid, neither of which are the case for the I-9 form alone. Additionally, if employment authorization has expired, employers cannot use E-verify to establish an employee’s right to work; it must be done first through the I-9 paperwork.
There are instances when E-verify participation is mandatory. The program is not voluntary for federal contractors, employers in certain states and employer who chose to extend the initial work authorization period of recent foreign graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Companies awarded a contract with the federal government will be required to enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of the contract award date. They will also need to begin using the E-Verify system to confirm that all of their new hires and their employees directly working on federal contracts are authorized to legally work in the United States.
Where to turn when you need assistance with your company’s immigration compliance
In order to maintain I-9 compliance, employers are required to inspect and retain copious forms and documents, and be ready to present them to inspectors. Managers and HR personnel are also responsible for verifying the authenticity of documents to a certain degree, which is a difficult task when there are so many different types of documents that are accepted.
Maintaining compliance is crucial for companies and penalties are severe, but you don’t have to do it alone. At Pobjecky & Pobjecky, we are here to assist you with your immigration compliance efforts in order to ensure that your company is prepared in any situation and help you maintain a legal workforce.