New E-Verify Law for Florida

Abiding by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, businesses hiring employees in the United States are required to verify the employee’s eligibility to work in order to stay compliant with Form I-9 regulations that sometimes can include utilizing the federal E-Verify program. However, a new E-Verify law for Florida is changing the way the state does this process as it is now making E-Verify mandatory for public employers as of 2021.

 

How E-Verify Typically Works

To fully understand the new E-Verify law for Florida, a little background information can be helpful.

By federal law, all United States employers are required to have employees complete a Form I-9. The form came about from the passing of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act which created the form to aid with verifying the identity and employment of a potential employee.

The Form I-9 has three main sections:

  • Section One: This part of the form which requires personal information from the employee must be completed by them by the first day of employment. The employer’s responsibility is generally to ensure the section has been correctly completed.
  • Section Two: This central section of the form is a little more in depth than the first as it deals with a review process and verification. An employee must present approved identification documents as noted by the Form I-9 to an employer. The employer then is required to review those documents for authenticity in good faith. This particular part of the form has to be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day on the job.
  • Section Three: This last part of the form is reserved primarily for rehires and reverification and is handled primarily by the employer in the case that an employee’s work authorization expires, name changes, or rehire takes place within three years of the date on the original Form I-9.

Once the Form I-9 has been properly completed and the deadline for each section has been met, E-Verify can come into play. It is important to note that participation in the federal E-Verify program is generally voluntary unless a company:

  • Is operating in a state requiring businesses to participate in E-Verify
  • Is required to participate in the program due to an official legal ruling
  • Participates in federal contracts or subcontracts with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause present

If for one of the above reasons an employer is required to use E-Verify, it may follow this pattern:

  • Employer opens up a new case in the E-Verify system and completes it by the third business day from an employee’s first day on the job. An employer uses the information from the employee’s Form I-9 to complete the case form.
  • E-Verify compares the information provided by the employer with that of information maintained by government agencies with the purpose of confirming an employee’s employment eligibility.
  • Some E-Verify results can confirm an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States in five minutes or less. However, some results can take much longer.

 

New E-Verify Law for Florida

The state of Florida recently passed a new mandate in June of 2020 that requires all government employers and some private employers to use the federal E-Verify program when hiring employees as of January 1, 2021. Prior to the passing of this law, the use of E-Verify was not required by Florida. According to the legislation, the mandatory use of E-Verify will apply to public employers in Florida such as:

  • Colleges
  • Local agencies
  • Public universities
  • School districts
  • State agencies
  • Contractors and subcontractors for each of the above are also included

While private employers are not generally required to use the E-Verify system, they will have to do so if they contract with a public employer or apply for taxpayer funded incentives. However, in accordance with the law set to go into effect on January 1, 2021, even private employers who do not have to use E-Verify are required to keep copies of any documents used in completing the Form I-9 for a minimum of three years.

Regardless of public or private status, all employers in the state of Florida are still required to have employees fill out a Form I-9 as stated by federal law. The forms must be completed according to the specific deadlines mentioned on the Form I-9 and should be maintained accordingly.

As with any employer, failure to follow national and state regulations regarding the Form I-9 and usage of the E-Verify system can put them at risk for being found non-compliant.

 

How to Streamline the Use of E-Verify

The E-Verify program is designed to help verify and confirm authorization to work, which may help alleviate authentication pressure felt by employers as well as protect against document and identity fraud. Still, for those employers who are not accustomed to using the E-Verify program, it can be confusing.

Whether you are new to the program or not, a helpful resource in streamlining E-Verify processes can be digital I-9 software. It is intended to save employers time when utilizing E-Verify and give them an increased level of confidence. Some of the benefits of using digital I-9 software for E-Verify can include:

  • A software application should provide printable checklists for both the employer and employee to help with preparation and keep the Form I-9 process moving right along.
  • User-Friendly Prompts and Reminders. Since the Form I-9 is the basis of information included in E-Verify cases, it is crucial that the form be filled out correctly. The software can be setup to provide employers notification of incomplete fields, impending deadlines, and more. This can also help with minimizing errors on the Form I-9, which could lead to an employer being found non-compliant.
  • Because the information for E-Verify is based on that provided in the Form I-9, the correct transfer of information from one form to the other is critical. Digital I-9 software should auto populate E-Verify fields with information from a digital Form I-9. This feature can help cut down on setbacks such as inadvertently transposing numbers.

 

The best way employers can be prepared for something like the new E-Verify law for Florida is to establish good Form I-9 procedures, understand how E-Verify works, keep up with federal and local changes, and enlist the help of digital I-9 software.

Developing an I-9 Compliance Plan

With Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations estimated to have quadrupled in recent years, it has never been more important for companies to begin developing an I-9 compliance plan. Per the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers have the responsibility to make sure employees are Form I-9 compliant and therefore eligible to work in the United States. By developing an I-9 compliance plan, companies can establish crucial proactive efforts that may help them avoid common obstacles to achieving a compliant status.

 

6 Steps to Developing an I-9 Compliance Plan

The purpose of a company developing an I-9 compliance plan is to aid employees and employers in performing the proper compliance protocol, which should ensure employees’ identities are verified and employment is accurately authorized.

When it comes to developing an I-9 compliance plan, companies may find the following six proactive steps to be helpful in achieving and maintaining a compliant status:

  1. Present each employee with a Form I-9
  2. Closely follow the steps and guidelines listed on the Form I-9
  3. Meet deadlines for all three sections of the Form I-9
  4. Ensure timely follow-up for soon to be expired I-9 documentation
  5. Follow proper document retention guidelines
  6. Enlist the help of additional resources such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Handbook for Employers M-275 and digital I-9 software

 

Understanding the Form I-9

The Form I-9 is the foundation for an employer’s compliance process. Without a proper understanding of this form, employers are putting a company’s compliant status at risk. The form is broken out into three main sections to verify an employee’s identity and employment eligibility.

  • Section 1: This first section of the Form I-9 requires employees to input personal information in a complete and accurate manner by the first day of employment. Employers must then review the form for errors such as the absence of any blank or incomplete fields and missing signatures.
  • Section2: The second part of the Form I-9 generally addresses employer review of documents and verification. Within three business days of an employee’s first day on the job, the law specifies employees must provide approved Form I-9 identification documents that employers will then in good faith examine and, if appropriate, vouch for their authenticity.
  • Section 3: The third and final section of the Form I-9 pertains to reverifications and rehires. It is typically completed in the case that an employee’s name has legally changed, a work authorization has expired, or a rehire has occurred within three years of the date listed on the original Form I-9.

 

Why Employers Should Take I-9 Compliance Seriously

Aside from the fact that it is federal law, employers should willingly work to achieve I-9 compliance for the sake of their business. Depending on the nature and number of Form I-9 violations, consequences can cost more than just money.

The two main types of violations are criminal and civil. Criminal violations can be assigned to an employer with an established pattern of recruiting, hiring, or referring individuals unauthorized to work in the United States for a fee. Civil violations generally pertain to committing document fraud, discriminating against employment authorized individuals, knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien for employment or continuing to employ that individual.

Each violation can be subject to consequence and is treated on a case by case basis. This means that for every employee that is found not to be Form I-9 compliant, a violation can be assigned. In cases where a company has not been developing an I-9 compliance plan and there are multiple errors, the company could be subject to a series of hefty punitive fines, a partial or complete loss of workforce, or even the loss of a business license.

 

How Digital I-9 Software Can Help

Although the Form I-9 can initially appear to be straightforward, many employers find the various guidelines, deadlines, and responsibilities of the form make the process complex, and with stern consequences for violations, many companies are choosing to enlist the help of digital I-9 software.

This type of software can help keep employers organized and efficient during the entire process, through the hiring, reverification, and document retention stages. Digital I-9 software is designed to help a company developing an I-9 compliance plan achieve and maintain a compliant status.

While these software programs can vary in individual features, companies should expect the following from the digital I-9 software they select:

  • This software is designed to be user friendly which is why it offers a printable checklist that can be handed to employees in advance, so there is no confusion about the information on the Form I-9. A checklist for employers should also be available to keep each employee’s Form I-9 process on track.
  • The software allows the Form I-9 to be digitized. In doing so, the program should be able to more easily catch common human errors such as incomplete or blank fields, as well as missing signatures.
  • Document and Expiration Reminders. Digital I-9 software programs should provide companies with timely automatic reminders to help employers stay on top of document deadlines and expiration dates.
  • Centralized Reporting. The software should also allow near effortless management that will allow a snapshot of a company’s compliance status at any given time, instead of waiting for an official audit.

 

By developing an I-9 compliance plan and utilizing additional resources such as digital I-9 software, employers can have more confidence and peace of mind in the process from start to finish.

Applicant Tracking Software

Applicant tracking software is quickly becoming the wave of the future for employers navigating the Form I-9 process. With immigration being the focus of headlines nationwide, American businesses are feeling more pressure than ever to ensure they are Form I-9 compliant. To successfully achieve and maintain this status, employers are turning to resources like applicant tracking software.

 

What is Applicant Tracking Software?

Tracking software is a general term for a digital Form I-9 software program designed to facilitate and streamline the Form I-9 process for employers by digitizing content as well as minimizing common human error. Applicant tracking software programs are often utilized by companies to reduce the incidence of violations and penalties associated with being found noncompliant.

 

The Form I-9

The Form I-9 is a byproduct of the 1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act and is a legal document which aids in establishing the identity and employment eligibility of individuals hired in the United States.

There are three main sections of the Form I-9, all of which must be completed accurately to be compliant.

Section1:  This section is primarily the employee’s responsibility and should be completed by the first day of employment. Employers are responsible for ensuring that this section is completed in its entirety.

Section 2:  The second section of the Form I-9 requires work on the employee’s and employer’s part.  Within three days of the employee’s first day of work, he or she is required to provide the proper identification documents to the employer as dictated by the form. The employer is then responsible for carefully examining these documents in good faith to verify the authenticity of each document.

Section 3:  This section of the form is typically completed by the employer if the employee has a change of name, a renewal of an expiring work authorization, or a rehire within three years of the date listed on the Form I-9.

Although the Form I-9 may sound simple in explanation, many employers find that it is more complex than meets the eye. Some of the most frequently asked questions about the Form I-9 generally include the following:

  • Who needs to fill out a Form I-9? Employees who started working in the United States after 1986 are required to fill out a Form I-9 for the employer.
  • What forms of ID are acceptable for an I-9? Employees should refer to the list of acceptable documents included in the Form I-9 literature.
  • Can an I-9 be electronically signed? A digital Form I-9 can typically be electronically signed as long as the employer can attest to the required information.
  • How do I complete an I-9 form? The form can generally be completed manually or via a digital software program as subject to Form I-9 guidelines and restrictions.
  • When should an I-9 form be completed? Each section of the Form I-9 has unique deadlines for completion. Failure to complete each section in the required deadline may cause issues with being Form I-9 compliant.

Because of the document’s complexity, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services created a one hundred plus page manual to help employers better navigate the I-9 process.

In addition to this tool, companies are increasingly turning to applicant tracking software to ensure compliance. The software is designed to facilitate the Form I-9 procedure for employers while making the overall process more manageable and with less room for common error.

 

How Applicant Tracking Software Can Help The I-9 Process

Digital Form I-9 software was created to help employers minimize risk associated with the form and ultimately achieve compliance with the law. Although most digital I-9 software shares the same end goal, each may vary in some of the services provided.

Employers who enlist the help of applicant tracking software can generally expect the following benefits:

  • Paperless Solutions. Employers using a digitized Form I-9 solution may benefit from a paperless process. This can be particularly helpful for those employers managing hiring at multiple locations.
  • Advance Preparation. Generally, a checklist of sorts is provided for employees to review in advance of filling out the form so that they will understand exactly what information will be required. The software also generally provides employers with a checklist to stay on task.
  • On-Boarding Assistance. From start to finish of the Form I-9, the software is designed to help employers complete the process with will check for common errors by searching for blank or incomplete fields and missing signatures, as well as alerting employers to upcoming deadlines.
  • Document Tracking. These programs usually keep track of Form I-9 documents and help to alert employers before they expire and become problematic with I-9 compliance.
  • Reporting On Demand. One of the benefits to using digital I-9 software is the expectation to pull reports as needed to enable periodic self-audits for I-9 compliance.
  • E-Verify Interface. For those companies required or wishing to participate in E-Verify, digital I-9 software should work in tandem with the program to help auto-populate the system, take in E-Verify alerts and notifications, and notify employers about open cases.
  • Audit Assistance. The digital software company an employer chooses should have the capability to provide potential auditors with specific operation and audit trail information. The software company should provide mass prints of Form I-9 records and attachments as required.

When choosing a digital I-9 software company, look for a company that has experience in providing excellent customer service, helping with troubleshooting, and guaranteeing timely responses.

Applicant tracking software can be instrumental in keeping companies I-9 compliant and therefore avoiding costly violation penalties such as expensive fines, loss of workforce, or even the loss of a business license. With so much at stake, being compliant is nonnegotiable for employers, and applicant tracking software may be the perfect solution.

Can I-9 Be Completed Prior to Start Date?

Since the late twentieth century when the Immigration and Reform Control Act was passed, companies have been required to complete the Form I-9 for employees by specific deadlines, but many companies are wondering, “Can an I-9 be completed prior to a start date for the employee?”  The question is a valid one, especially with the number of guidelines pertaining to the form.

The short answer is that yes, a Form I-9 can be completed prior to the start date of an employee. That said, there are some important requirements that still apply regardless of when the form is started. Failure to adhere to these mandates can result in a company being found not compliant. With a number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids that have taken place in 2019, it is more important than ever for companies to stay I-9 compliant.

Smart, proactive businesses will take a periodic refresher course in what it takes to become or stay Form I-9 compliant because failure to do so could ultimately affect a company’s bottom line, work force, or the operation of the business itself.

 

The Structure of a Form I-9

Since the Immigration and Reform Control Act went into effect, the Form I-9 has been a requirement for employees hired by companies to work in the United States. The act was created to help establish the identity of an individual and determine the individual’s eligibility to work in the U.S.

There are three main sections on a Form I-9. Each section outlines specific responsibilities and corresponding deadlines for completion.

  1. Section 1: The first section of this form is dedicated to the intake of information from an employee and it must be completed by the employee’s first day on the job. Employees must complete the form in its entirety and sign it to vouch for its accuracy. Employers must ensure the employee completed the form properly.
  2. Section 2: The second section of the form requires employees to provide proper identification documents as cited by the Form I-9 to the employer. Once all forms of identification have been submitted, employers must then in good faith vouch for the apparent authenticity. This must be completed no later than three business days from an employee’s first day on the job.
  3. Section 3: The last section of the Form I-9 is primarily for the employer to complete in the event that there is a modification such as an employee’s name change, an expiration of work authorization, or rehiring within three years of the original date listed on the Form I-9.

 

Can the I-9 be completed prior the employee’s start date?

Although the Form I-9 does have several specific deadlines, it may be started prior to the first day of work for the employee. In fact, the form may be completed as soon as the individual accepts a job offer.  Regardless of when the form is started, it must still meet Form I-9 guidelines.

However, employers should be wary of a Form I-9 that is completed too far in advance of an employee’s start date. This time gap could allow for several errors that could put a company’s ability to be compliant in jeopardy. Some instances in which this could be a factor may include:

  • A change in the originally listed start date that is not noted by the employer
  • A change in the employee’s name or work authorization status
  • The employee’s acceptance of a different job

Even though the Form I-9 can be completed prior to the start date of an employee, it might not be in a company’s best interest to do so. At the very least, it creates the need for an eye for detail before submitting the final form, but it could put the company’s compliance at risk.

 

How Digital I-9 Software Can Help a Company Stay I-9 Compliant

Regardless of whether the I-9 is completed prior to the start date or on an employee’s first day on the job, the detailed guidelines and deadlines of the form can make it a complex process. This is why many companies are turning to additional resources to help streamline the I-9 process.

Although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services created a helpful handbook for employers, this resource is more than one hundred pages long and can be time intensive to review. To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, many businesses are also choosing to enlist the help of digital I-9 compliance software.

The software is designed to catch common mistakes, minimize human error, and help employers stay on top of any impending deadlines. Another benefit is that the program tends to give employers greater peace of mind when it comes to I-9 compliance.

Some of the features that digital I-9 software programs can provide may include:

  • Information Checklists: These programs should have a built in checklist that can be provided in advance to employees. This helps employees be better prepared to gather the information needed to complete the Form I-9. Employers should also have access to a checklist to help them ensure deadlines are efficiently met.
  • Error Minimization: Digital I-9 software helps minimize common human errors such as an incomplete or blank field or a missing signature on the form. This feature can be particularly helpful for a Form I-9 completed prior to the start date for an employee.
  • Action Required Reminders: These software programs should also alert employers when action is required regarding an upcoming deadline or an expired document. These reminders could be crucial to a company’s success in staying compliant.
  • User Friendly Reporting: Rather than waiting for an audit to find out if the company is compliant, software reporting features allow companies to check their general compliance status on demand.

 

The answer to, “Can an I-9 be completed prior to an employee’s start date?” is yes, but proceed with caution. Be aware of any changes that may need to be made before submitting the final document. Be more prepared and confident by enlisting the help of a digital I-9 software.