On November 14, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) released the new version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The changes to the form make it easier for US companies and their workers to comply with regulatory requirements, and avoid the penalties that can result for violations of different federal immigration laws. In general, while both employers and employees must complete Form I-9, it’s the employer that will be held responsible for non-compliance. Therefore, company owners should be aware of the requirements, understand the changes, and consult with a qualified immigration lawyer about specific employee circumstances.
Form I-9 Basics: Employers must verify the identity and employment authorization for all individuals they hire within the US, including citizens and non-citizens. Form I-9 is the document companies complete, along with their employees, to comply with this requirement. On the document, an employee must attest to his or her identity and eligibility to work in the US, including evidence that supports the claims. The employer reviews the information provided by the employee on Form I-9, and can legally hire a person who provides sufficient proof. Companies must retain the form and its supplementary paperwork and make it available for inspection if requested by government officials.
Highlights of the Changes to Form I-9: Starting on January 22, 2017, employers must use the revised version of the Form I-9 for all new hires and for re-verification of employment eligibility where necessary for certain employees. The new paperwork is easier to complete on a computer, and key changes include:
Penalties for Violations of I-9 Requirements: Companies that don’t abide by the requirements of completing and retaining a Form I-9 for each employee are subject to harsh punishment. Sanctions may include criminal penalties, exclusion from government contracts, and orders to issue back pay to employees. In addition, civil fines for hiring an employee ineligible to work in the US may apply. A first offense may result in a fine of $375-$3,200 per employee, while fines for second and third offenses case range from $6,500 up to $16,000 per worker.
Compliance with Form I-9 requirements on employment eligibility is critical for all company owners, especially as certain changes are about to take effect that will impact the paperwork you need to complete and retain. While the new form is intended to be easier for employers and employees, businesses face a challenging regulatory scheme under federal law. Considering the harsh penalties that can result from violations of legal requirements, it’s wise to work with an immigration attorney that will assist with Form I-9 and other documentation. Please contact the Chicago offices of Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC with any questions or to discuss your circumstances in more detail.
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