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Five Tips for Properly Completing Form I-9

May 2013

By: Ryan M. Helgeson, Esq.

All employers in the United States must complete an employment verification procedure for each of their employees at the time of hire. This verification is accomplished through timely and accurate completion of Form I-9 by the employer.

Violations of the federal regulations governing Form I-9 can be costly for your business. If employers fail to complete the Form I-9 for required employees or make errors when completing Form I-9, they face potential stiff fines of up to $1,100 per Form I-9! Regardless of the size of your business, these fines can add up to many thousands of dollars.

The following 5 tips for employers will help to ensure proper completion of Form I-9 and reduce your business's liability:

1) Make sure you are using the most current Form I-9.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a new Form I-9 in March 2013. As of May 7, 2013, employers should be using the new Form I-9 for all newly hired employees. A new form does not have to be completed for those employees with a valid I-9 already on file.

2) Complete the Form I-9 on-time, even for remote employees.

Section 1 of Form I-9 must be completed by the employee on their first day of work for pay. Section 2 of Form I-9, attesting to the validity of the employee's documents, must be completed by the employer within three days of the employee's first day. This is true even for remote employees. The employer or an agent of the employer must physically inspect the employee's documents and complete Section 2 within the required time.

3) Reverify the employment authorization of employees when necessary.

Employers must reverify the work authorization of certain employees. Employees whose work authorization documents have expiration dates, whether a visa or an Employment Authorization Document, must be reverified by the employer to ensure continued eligibility to work. If a work authorization document expires, the employee may no longer be eligible to legally work.

Documents of U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Resident documents ("green cards"), and List B identification documents do not have to reverified if expiring. However, these documents must be valid at the time the Form I-9 is originally completed.

4) Do not ask for specific documents.

Employers may not ask for specific work authorization or identification documents when completing the Form I-9. Employers should provide the employee with Form I-9 instructions and the List of Acceptable Documents at the time of hire. The employee (not the employer!) decides which documents to present. If the employee presents extra documents, the employer should accept only the minimum necessary to complete Form I-9.

If the employer is enrolled in E-Verify, the employer may request a Social Security Card from the employee.

5) Complete voluntary self-audits.

Even the most careful and vigilant employers make errors when completing Form I-9. The best way to ensure that you are in compliance and to minimize any errors in the event of a government audit is to conduct periodic self-audits. These voluntary self-audits, whether conducted in-house or by an outside attorney, provide an opportunity to double-check your business's I-9 compliance.

If you have questions regarding I-9 compliance or any other employment immigration question including visas, Attorney Ryan Helgeson is happy to help you. Please contact Ryan at (630) 377-1554 or at ryhelgeson@wesselssherman.com .