What is TPS?

Even employers with Form I-9 experience can struggle with temporary protected status (TPS) procedures. In the simplest of terms, TPS is a designation that may be awarded to nationals of specifically identified countries that cannot get safely back home. In some instances, these individuals may then be eligible to work in the United States. This can present problems for employers trying to navigate TPS protocol in combination with the Form I-9.

 

What Is TPS And How Does It Work?

TPS was created by Congress via the Immigration Act of 1990 and is an acronym for the term “temporary protected status.” If a specific country is having problems (war, natural disasters, etc.), that in turn creates challenges in a national being deported there, TPS may be temporarily awarded.

In other words, if a national is supposed to be deported back to their country but it is deemed unsafe to do so, that individual may be eligible for this type of temporary immigration status. An individual receiving this temporary immigration status is given a work permit and a stay of deportation.

The key to TPS is the determination of which countries are considered as having problems such as civil war, hurricanes, epidemics, or other life-threatening safety issues. That authority lies with the Secretary of Homeland Security, and they can award the TPS designation for a time period of only six, twelve, or eighteen months at a time. This decision is made after extensive consultations with other government agencies such as the National Security Council and Department of Justice.

Some examples of countries that have or have had TPS designation include:

  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

In order to be eligible for TPS, a person must meet specific qualifications. A TPS designation is not guaranteed to an individual simply because they are a national. The process of attaining TPS can be involved and registration must usually be done during a specific window of time. Fees are also generally applicable.

 

How TPS Affects Work Eligibility

Once an individual is granted TPS, they also receive temporary authorization to work in the United States and a temporary stay of deportation. Those who receive TPS are eligible for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as Form I-766, provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

 

How TPS Relates to the Form I-9 And What It Means for Employers

With a TPS and EAD in place, the individual and their employer should be able to complete a standard Form I-9 without much of an issue.

Ironically, the TPS and Form I-9 are still a regular issue further down the line for many employers that can affect their compliance status with the federal government. Why? The reason has to do with the automatic extension of Employment Authorization Documents.

If a certain country’s TPS designation is prolonged, it is not uncommon for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to do a universal extension of all expiring Employment Authorization Documents from that country. This is done primarily to give them time to process EAD renewals.

The catch is that even though the EAD has technically been extended by the U.S. government, that extension does not show up on the individual’s papers and documents. This often results in an employer erroneously believing that an employee’s documents have expired and are no longer valid.

Although some EAD extensions are noted in the Federal Register, they are reportedly not always done so in a timely manner. In other cases, an individual with a TPS designation may be the one notified about the extension of their EAD via a Notice of Continued Evidence of Work Authorization letter. The problem is that for one reason or another, some TPS beneficiaries never receive these letters. At this point, an employer is at a crossroads. They may either:

  1. Take the individual at their word and keep the employee’s position
  2. Terminate an employee’s position

Both situations can have negative consequences depending on if the EAD was actually extended or not.

To complicate things even further, the popular resource of the Form I-9 Handbook for Employers (M-274) which is used as an I-9 how-to-guide does not necessarily recognize an individual’s letter about the EAD extension as official.

What this can mean for employers is noncompliance with the federal government if it is discovered that:

  • they wrongly continued to hire an individual when their EAD had expired
  • they wrongly terminated an employee because they erroneously thought their EAD had not been extended when it really had

 

A Word About Form I-9 Compliance

If a company is found to be noncompliant with the Form I-9 process, which may include documents such as EADs, there can be negative consequences. In general, consequences for noncompliance may range from financial penalties to a loss of workforce to a company closing. Being found noncompliant is not a position you want to be in.

 

If you have questions regarding what TPS is or if you have Form I-9 concerns, please reach out to Lookout Services today to see how we can help.

How To Handle An I-9 Investigation

If you are a business who employs people in the United States, make no mistake about it—you need to know how to handle an I-9 investigation. While typically not every single business is subjected to one of these inquiries, they are happening with increasing frequency in recent years. It is in a company’s best interest to be prepared because being found non-compliant during an I-9 investigation can carry heavy penalties.

 

How Does A Company Know If They Will Be Investigated?

Simply put, you won’t know.

Most I-9 investigations come without warning and arrive in the form of a Notice of Inspection (more commonly referred to as an NOI) via U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although getting served with an NOI can be alarming in and of itself, panic tends to multiply once an employer realizes that they have only three days to provide investigators with the documentation they require.

 

I-9 Investigations, Audits, and Raids

If your company undergoes an I-9 scrutiny, it usually does so via one of the following two scenarios:

  1. ICE Audit
  2. ICE Raid

While both types of investigations can be performed by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in regard to the Form I-9, that is where the similarities end.

A typical audit is the more common of these two types of investigations and can have more of an administrative feel to it. An NOI is served and Form I-9 documentation is requested within three days. These audits can include court subpoenas for documents, and review of these documents is often quite thorough, sometimes taking three to six months to resolve. Don’t let the administrative nature of this type of investigation fool you. If there are paperwork errors found that are uncorrected or that show significant errors in judgement, there can be substantial fines and penalties.

The other form of investigation, an authorized raid, can be more stressful as it is more immediate in nature. Raids can include the inspection of a business and a request for their documentation and has more legal heft behind it as it is usually authorized by a judge. Although the results of the paperwork associated with a raid can take some time to properly sort out, companies in severe violation of I-9 compliance could potentially see arrests made on the spot in some cases.

 

What Kind of Documentation Do Investigators Typically Require?

It can be helpful to think of an I-9 audit similarly to a tax audit. For a tax audit, individuals are required to have a paper or digital trail of purchases and tax deductions to submit to federal agencies. ICE audits work similarly in that they typically require companies to provide a large amount of documentation that pertains to Form I-9 practices.

Because the number of Form I-9 audits are estimated to be on the rise, companies should make haste to ensure that they can easily access the below information and documentation in the event of an ICE audit:

  • Original Form I-9s for all current employees
  • Original Form I-9s that are being retained per federal guidelines
  • Copies of Form I-9 supporting documents
  • No-match social security letters on file
  • E-Verify confirmations for employees

 

Companies that utilize digital I-9 software are still required to provide these same items, and some additional items in the form of:

  • Electronic files and electronic signature processes
  • Easy to follow audit trails
  • Demonstration of digital I-9 software
  • Demonstration of secure access to electronic files

 

In addition, some general information companies will want to have handy for investigators can include:

  • Company owner name and contact information
  • List of employees (including temporary workers and subcontractors)
  • Payroll information
  • Company tax statements for the last three years
  • Contact and address information for all company locations

 

Potential Investigative Outcomes

Regardless of the type of investigation performed by authorities, any failure to be compliant with proper Form I-9 protocol could result in one of the following outcomes:

  • Warning: A warning notice can come as the result of verification violations that were found during the course of the investigation, but that may not merit a fine if the employer promises future compliance in good faith.
  • Notice of Technical or Procedural Failures: This type of notice alerts employers to the presence of technical violations. From the time of receipt, the employer has approximately ten days to correct any issues before they become considered violations.
  • Notice of Discrepancies: Receiving a Notice of Discrepancies typically means that the investigators were not able to determine if one or more employees are indeed eligible to be working for the company.
  • Notice of Suspect Documents: This is a further step in the wrong direction than the above. A Notice of Suspect Documents usually means that investigators have found that one or more employees are in fact not eligible to work. Companies typically have the opportunity to prove that the investigators’ determination was an error. However, if unable to do so, it could result in substantial consequences if a company continues to employ the said individual(s).
  • Notice of Intent to Fine: This kind of notice usually translates to significant problems for a company. A Notice of Intent to Fine is issued if there are uncorrected or substantive violations or if a company knowingly hires or continues to employ those employees not eligible to work. Companies receiving this notice may be issued heavy punitive fines or other consequences.

 

Don’t Wait for an Audit or Raid to Be Investigation-Ready

One of the most important things a company can do when considering how to handle an I-9 investigation is to be as proactive as possible. Five steps that companies should follow to ensure they are better prepared for an investigation are:

  1. Know proper Form I-9 protocol and train all managers accordingly.
  2. Provide periodic refresher courses for those involved with Form I-9 processes.
  3. Depend on digital I-9 software from a reputable provider to help minimize error and audit complications.
  4. Conduct quarterly audits to stay on top of any compliance issues that may arise.
  5. Prepare a file with some of the general company information required by investigators so it is ready to go upon request.

 

If you have questions about how to handle an I-9 investigation, please reach out to Lookout Services today for answers.

Who Is Eligible To Work In The U.S.

It is estimated that in recent years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations have nearly quadrupled. With statistics like these, employers must be more committed than ever to ensuring employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S.

This responsibility can be overwhelming for employers; however, the federally mandated use of a Form I-9 sets forth specific guidelines to help employers determine an employee’s eligibility and keep the company compliant in the process.

Employers who have a clear understanding of what the Form I-9 is and how it works are taking critical first steps in keeping the company compliant with federal law. These actions combined with additional resources such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Handbook for Employers M-274 and digital I-9 software, should streamline the Form I-9 process and make keeping a compliant status more attainable.

 

The Form I-9 And Individuals Eligible to Work in the U.S.

Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was passed, it has been the law for employers to complete a Form I-9 and collect the required documentation for each employee. The form is designed to establish an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the U.S.

There are three main parts to a Form I-9:

  • Section 1: This beginning section requires an employee to enter personal information. This section must be completed in its entirety by the employee’s first day of employment.  Employers must review this section for accuracy and ensure there are no incomplete fields, blank fields, or missing signatures.
  • Section 2: The second section must be completed within three days of the employee’s starting day. The employee is required to submit Form I-9 approved documents to the employer. The employer is then responsible for reviewing the documents with good faith to determine the document’s authenticity.
  • Section 3: The last section of the Form I-9 is primarily completed by employers in the case of a change in an employee’s status such as a legal name change, an expired work authorization, or a rehire within three years of the date listed on the original form.

By completing these sections of the Form I-9, following the directions to a tee, and ensuring all deadlines are met, employers can have more confidence that an employee is eligible to work in the U.S.

 

Paperwork Required for Eligibility

Section 2 of the Form I-9 requires an employee to submit approved documents to the employer to help establish identity. Approved documents are categorized into one of three designations: List A, List B, or List C.   All employees are required to submit at least one of these approved documents, and some employees may be required to submit two, based on which list the documents come from.

  • In general, List A documents help prove an individual’s identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. Some example documents that may be approved from List A can include a United States Passport, Foreign Passport, Resident Card, or Employment Authorization Document Card. Some of these documents will only be valid if specific guidelines are met, such as a proper signature or notation.
  • List B documents primarily help establish an individual’s identity. If an employee submits a document from List B, a document from List C is also commonly required. Examples of List B documents may include a U.S. driver’s license, voter registration card, military card, military dependent card, or official medical record for a minor. Some of these documents must meet certain requirements to be considered valid.
  • List C documents are usually submitted with List B documents. Examples of List C documents can include a U.S. social security card, certification of birth abroad, U.S. birth certificate, or citizen ID card. Many of these documents must be unrestricted, bear an official seal, or be issued by the U.S. Department of State to be valid.

By an employee submitting the proper Form I-9 approved documentation, employers are more easily able to determine if that employee is eligible to work in the U.S.

 

3 Ways Digital I-9 Software Can Help with Determining if an Employee is Eligible to Work in the U.S.

Properly filling out a Form I-9 and verifying the authenticity of approved identification documents can be time consuming and tedious. To help streamline the Form I-9 process and make it more user friendly, employers are increasingly turning to digital I-9 software. While enlisting the help of programs like these offers a number of key benefits, here are the top four ways digital I-9 software can help determine if an employee is eligible to work in the U.S.

  1. Advance Preparation. This type of software typically offers a printable checklist for employees to review in advance. This helps employees understand exactly what type of information will be required of them to complete the Form I-9. Employers also have access to a checklist to stay on top of the process from start to finish.
  2. On-Boarding Assistance. Digital I-9 software assists employers in terms of guidelines and deadlines associated with the three sections of the form. This may include time-sensitive deadline reminders and potential error alerts such as incomplete or blank fields and missing signatures.
  3. Tracking and management of I-9 forms and supporting documents.
  4. E-Verify Interface. The most advanced software packages will interface with E-Verify to give employers an extra resource in verifying an individual’s eligibility for employment in the U.S. The software’s interface should also auto-populate the E-Verify system to help minimize errors.

 

The Form I-9 was created to help employers determine if an employee is eligible to work in the U.S.  However, by using digital I-9 software to navigate the Form I-9, employers should be able to breathe a little easier with an added measure of peace of mind.

Receiving a No Match Letter from the SSA

Employers have been receiving no-match letters from the Social Security Administration for decades, but in recent years the nation’s focus on immigration issues has led to a climate of uncertainty when it comes to what those letters mean for I-9 compliance. By understanding how to do due diligence concerning these letters and properly utilize digital I-9 software, employers can breathe a sigh of relief and may have more confidence in compliance throughout the process.

 

What Getting a No-Match Letter from the SSA Could Mean

The first step in understanding no-match letters from the Social Security Administration is considering the possible causes. A no-match letter is generally sent when there is a name and social security number mismatch.

While it may be instinct for an employer to be alarmed, it is important to do a little more digging first as a no-match letter does not necessarily mean an employee is not authorized for employment. Some of the most common reasons for a no-match letter to be sent from the Social Security Administration can include:

  • Typographical errors
  • Incomplete employer records
  • An unreported name change
  • Identity theft

Despite the number of often simple errors that can cause a no-match letter to be sent, it can open up an employer to I-9 compliance issues. For example, in the event of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit or raid, the organization can request a record of no-match letters the employer has received.

No-match letters from the Social Security Administration cannot always be avoided, however, it is how an employer responds to that letter can potentially impact a company’s compliance status.

 

What Not to Do When an Employer Gets a No-Match Letter

Receiving the no-match letter is typically not as life altering as how an employer responds to the letter, therefore it is crucial to start with what not to do.

Two common scenarios that employers should avoid at all costs can include:

  1. Starting over with the Form I-9 process. This is not a good idea and can cause a company a whole host of new problems in an ICE audit or raid.
  2. Reacting swiftly to a no-match letter without researching first. Because no-match letters can sometimes be triggered by simple errors, it is imperative that employers not immediately dismiss an employee solely because of the letter. Doing so could result in the employer being sued for discrimination.

Once employers understand how not to handle the receipt of a no-match letter, the focus must shift to what employers should do.

 

What to Do When an Employer Gets a No-Match Letter

Whatever steps are taken in response to the receipt of a no-match letter can definitively impact a company’s compliance status. For that reason, there are a few important considerations to review before proceeding.

  • Go online to the Social Security Administration’s business services system and register in an effort to resolve the mismatch. The employer’s goal should be to rectify the situation within sixty days. This step is vital to prove that after receiving a no-match letter the employer acted in good faith. This action is generally looked favorably upon in the event of an ICE audit or raid.
  • Compare the listed social security number with employment records to look for possible typographical errors.
  • If employment records match the information the employer submitted, let the employee in question know about the snag. Ask the employee to double check the social security card for any inaccuracies between it and employer records.
  • If the employee’s social security card matches employer records, it may be prudent to ask the employee to work directly with the Social Security Administration to resolve the issue.
  • An employee with new documents should submit them directly to the Social Security Administration. In addition, the employer should also submit those document corrections to the organization.
  • In the case that an employee is not able to provide a valid social security number, it is critical for the employer to document all efforts made to resolve the situation to prove they acted in good faith. This last step could make all the difference when it comes to an ICE audit.

 

How Digital I-9 Software Can Help

Employers that choose to enlist the help of digital I-9 software may find the no-match letter procedure easier to navigate with the help of digitized documents. The software is designed to be user friendly and minimize common Form I-9 errors that can affect compliance.

The program can detect incomplete or blank fields and missing signatures, all of which can create headaches for employers if they are not caught before submitting the form.

In addition, a reputable digital I-9 software should interface with the federal E-Verify program. This valuable connection may help speed up the process of finding social security number issues since it utilizes records from the Social Security Administration to confirm an employee’s identity.

 

No-match letters from the Social Security Administration are not something for an employer to fret over, but how the employer chooses to respond to the letter is critical.

How To Conduct A Self Audit To Ensure I-9 Compliance

As the stakes for a business to be compliant with federal law grows, so does the demand for learning how to conduct a self-audit to ensure I-9 compliance. Employers are increasingly understanding the importance of this practice to reduce the number of potential violations before an official audit is in process. If done properly, a self-audit can provide employers with more confidence and peace of mind in achieving and maintaining a compliant status.

 

8 Steps to Conduct a Self-Audit to Ensure I-9 Compliance

With the incidence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations estimated to have quadrupled in recent years, it is perhaps more crucial than ever for companies to become proactive when it comes to preparing for a potential audit. Eight main steps for how to conduct a self-audit to ensure I-9 compliance is as up to date as possible include:

  1. Gather I-9 forms on file
  2. Ensure every current employee has a Form I-9 on file
  3. Obtain forms for current employees that are missing a Form I-9
  4. Verify proper retention of I-9 forms for terminated employees
  5. Perform an audit for every Form I-9 on file
  6. Identify and correct Form I-9 errors
  7. Document all actions taken during a self-audit
  8. Keep new hires on track from day one

 

Gather I-9 Forms on File

Since the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, federal law has mandated that employers have employees complete a Form I-9, which was created to ensure that employees are eligible to work in the United States.

During a self-audit, an employer will need to gather each Form I-9 on file. This may include hard copies and digital copies, possibly from multiple locations if the employer has more than one office. The digitization of the form that takes place when a company utilizes digital I-9 software can greatly simplify this task.

 

Ensure Every Current Employee Has a Form I-9 on File

Not having a Form I-9 on file for a current employee can be considered a compliance violation and is often one of the first red flags that can be raised during an official audit. For this reason, once all I-9 forms have been gathered, it is crucial to reconcile that every current employee has a Form I-9 on file.

 

Obtain Forms for Current Employees That Are Missing a Form I-9

If during the self-audit it is discovered that there are one or more current employees hired on or after November 6, 1986 that are missing a Form I-9 on file, it is imperative that those forms be filled out immediately.

In this particular situation, it is important to note that employers should:

  • Make the employee in question aware of the missing form immediately
  • Ask the employee to provide proper documentation as stated on the Form I-9 by a specific time and date
  • Have the employee fill out a Form I-9 after documentation is received
  • Attach a short explanation to the Form I-9 that explains the issue came up during a self-audit and was immediately rectified
  • Keep a detailed record of all of the above communication

 

Verify Proper Retention of I-9 Forms for Terminated Employees

The regulations set forth in the Form I-9 require that employers keep an employee’s form for three years after the employee’s date of hire or for one year after an employee’s termination. Employers should use whichever date is later.

A company that has not properly eliminated a Form I-9 for an employee may be in violation of compliance that could result in punitive measures.

 

Perform an Audit of Every Form I-9 on File

Particularly for employers with hundreds of employees, performing an audit of every Form I-9 on file can be a rather daunting process as each form typically requires a number of different checkpoints.

Some of the basic information employers may want to review on each Form I-9 can include:

  • There are no blank fields
  • Each field is filled out in its entirety
  • Required signatures are provided
  • Identification documents are properly categorized

Employers that use digital I-9 software can usually expect this process to be more streamlined thanks to the digitization of the forms, an error finding system that can identify blank fields and missing signatures, and timely action item reminders and alerts.

Errors that are found should be appropriately identified, corrected, and documented to show steps taken in good faith. If done correctly, this documentation may positively impact compliance during an official audit.

 

Document All Actions Taken During a Self-Audit

Any errors found during a self-audit should be well documented as such by the employer. The company should also thoroughly document the additional steps taken with each employee to rectify any missing forms or errors. In the case of an official external audit, this should provide auditors with a well-marked trail of steps the company took in good faith to be compliant with federal law.

 

Keep New Hires on Track From Day One

Although periodic self-audits can be a useful tool in avoiding compliance issues, an equally effective method is to keep new hires on track to properly complete a Form I-9 from day one. Employers that may find this to be a time management struggle can benefit from utilizing digital I-9 software.

This software typically provides employers with two printable checklists. The first checklist is to provide an employee with advance knowledge of the type of information the Form I-9 requires. The second checklist is to provide employers with a system to keep each step of the Form I-9 process on track in a timely manner.

 

When it comes to how to conduct a self-audit to ensure I-9 compliance, consider lightening your workload by enlisting the help of a digital I-9 software provider.

About E-Verify

Whether you are a small business owner or a Fortune 500 company, you have likely heard about E-Verify, a program that can help employers adhere to federal law by verifying that employees are eligible to work in the United States. This crucial responsibility which can affect a company’s ability to stay I-9 compliant has many turning to the web-based E-Verify program to assist in ensuring that a company’s workforce is effectively verified and authorized to begin work.

 

About E-Verify and How it Works

Federal law mandates that every new hire is required to complete a Form I-9. This form was created as a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and is designed to help verify the identity and employment eligibility of an individual.

There are three main sections to the Form I-9:

  1. Section1: The first section of this form requires employees to complete the personal information requested on the Form I-9 by the first day of employment. Employers must then ensure the employee completed the first section properly.
  2. Section 2: The middle part of the Form I-9 focuses on review and verification. Employees are required to present identification documents as listed on the form to employers. Employers must then in good faith examine those documents for apparent authenticity. This section of the form must be completed within three business days of an employee’s first day at work.
  3. Section 3: The third section of the form deals primarily with reverification and rehires and should be handled by the employer in the event that an employee’s name changes, work authorization expires, or is rehired within three years of the date on the original form.

The information gathered in the Form I-9 is vital to the success of the E-Verify program. Since the program is web-based, it allows companies to complete E-Verify cases online. To begin, an employer should open up a new case in the E-Verify system and complete the case form no later than the third business day from an employee’s first day on the job by utilizing the information from the employee’s Form I-9.

Once the E-Verify case is completed, the E-Verify program compares the Form I-9 information with that kept on file by government agencies to confirm an employee’s employment eligibility. Some E-Verify case results that confirm an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States can be received by the employer in less than a minute. This type of verification and authorization can help relieve some of the authentication pressure from employers and protect against identity and document fraud.

The Form I-9 and E-Verify information exchange process can be easily facilitated for employers utilizing digital I-9 software. In most cases, the software will auto populate many of the E-Verify fields without requiring retyping, which can help minimize common human errors.

 

Do I have to use E-Verify?

While in some areas of the United States enrollment in E-Verify is voluntary, it may be a mandatory requirement for businesses located in other states. In general, there are three main reasons why companies could be required to enroll in the program:

  1. Being mandated to participate in E-Verify because of an official legal ruling
  2. Participating in federal contracts or subcontracts with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause present
  3. Operating in a state that requires its businesses to participate in E-Verify

Required or not, the E-Verify program is open to businesses located in all fifty of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. At the pace the country is in for 2019, employers will use E-Verify for an astounding 50 million employees.

 

How Digital I-9 Software Can Help With E-Verify

The two main components of verifying an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States is the Form I-9 and E-Verify. An employer that digitizes the Form I-9 and utilizes the E-Verify program could potentially have an advantage to staying compliant with federal law.

Ways Digital I-9 Software Can Help With The Form I-9 For E-Verify

  • Be a User Friendly Resource: The Form I-9 can be complex because of the amount of information it requires, multiple deadlines, and the handling of identification documents. Digital I-9 software should provide helpful prompts to walk employers and employees through every step of the process.
  • Facilitate The Process: Digital software should come with printable built-in checklists for employees and employers. Checklists of information that will be required for the Form I-9 can be presented to employees well in advance to effectively streamline the process. Employers can use a checklist to stay on task when it comes to Form I-9 responsibilities and deadlines.
  • Minimize Error: This software is designed to alert users to common human errors such as blank or incomplete fields and missing signatures. These errors, if not caught, could lead to a company being found non-compliant with federal law in an official audit.

Ways Digital I-9 Software Can Help Specifically With E-Verify

  • Accuracy: With the help of digital I-9 software, the information typed into a Form I-9 should be complete and without the presence of common human error. This feature is key as the information in the digital form can be used to auto populate E-Verify program fields.
  • Save time: This simple transfer of information can help cut down on the time it would have taken to re-enter the information as well as minimize the chance for error.

 

By utilizing digital I-9 software in tandem with the E-Verify program, employers should feel confident in their efforts to be Form I-9 compliant and have more peace of mind about the confirmed eligibility of employees.

I-9 Instructions For Employers

The Form I-9 has been a part of company culture for more than three decades, but one of the most frequently asked questions continues to be, “What are the I-9 instructions for employers?” Despite the form’s deceivingly simple appearance, employers are increasingly turning to additional resources such as digital I-9 software to better navigate it from start to finish. Being familiar with and closely following the I-9 instructions for employers is one of the most important steps an employer can take to achieve and maintain a compliant status.

 

Why The Form I-9 Is Necessary

In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed which mandated employers to have all employees complete a Form I-9 from that point forward. The form was designed to establish the identity of employees and determine their eligibility to work in the United States.

More than thirty years later, federal law still requires employers to have employees to fill out the Form I-9. Failure to do so could result in serious consequences for the company.

 

I-9 Instructions For Employers

The I-9 instructions for employers are listed clearly on the form itself, although additional resources such as digital I-9 software that can streamline filling out the form are also available. There are three main sections of the Form I-9, each with its own set of instructions, rules, and deadlines.

  • Section 1: This first section of the Form I-9 focuses on the collection of personal data from employees. This part of the form must be completed by the employee’s first day of employment. Employers are responsible for reviewing this part of the form for proper completion.
  • Section 2: The second section of this form requires more employee and employer participation. Employees must provide employers with a form approved document of identification. In turn the employer must review identification documents with due diligence to ensure their apparent authenticity, which can dictate the employee’s ability to work within the United States.
  • Section 3: The last section of the Form I-9 is mostly the employer’s responsibility in the event that an employee’s name is legally changed, work authorization is expired, or rehire happens within three years of the original date on the form.

Although the form may sound self-explanatory, when it comes to following all the detailed regulations and deadlines many companies find it helpful to utilize additional resources such as digital I-9 software and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Handbook for Employers M-274.

 

Could My Company Really Be Audited?

Absolutely. It is estimated that ICE worksite investigations have quadrupled in recent years. Add to that the number of audit-related arrests which have also risen, and employers should begin to realize the importance of being proactive in achieving compliance.

No employer is immune to audits, but there are some situations which could make them more susceptible to an audit, including:

  • Previous Audits. If a company is audited once by ICE, it is reasonable to suspect it could happen again. For this reason, it is important that employers make all changes recommended during an audit. In the case of a second audit, these same areas are generally the first to be looked at.
  • Mismatch Letters. If the Social Security Administration sends a company notification that a social security number does not match a person’s name, that employer could be at a greater risk of a follow up, regardless of whether the mismatch was caused by something simple such as basic human error or not.
  • Credible Tips. Although tips are sensibly vetted to ensure they are credible, individuals can tip off Homeland Security authorities via phone or online. While theoretically these tips can come from a number of different places, on average they are most frequently from former disgruntled employees, current disgruntled employees, and discontented competitors.
  • Government Agency Red Flags. In this case, a government agency could flag a company if it is suspected or documented that the company has a situation with issues such as equal opportunity employment or wage investigation.

 

Consequences For Not Being I-9 Compliant

The consequences for being found not compliant during an ICE worksite investigation or audit can be steep. Offenses are generally classified as civil or criminal in nature and are assigned on a case by case basis. This means if the same mistake is made on twenty employees’ Form I-9s, it will most likely result in twenty different violations.

Civil violations are usually document-based and pertain to forms that are incomplete, signatures that are missing, or deadlines that have been missed. While these can be fairly common human errors, they can result in fines up to several thousand dollars each.

Criminal violations are usually assigned for repetitive actions or patterns such as knowingly hiring undocumented individuals. These types of violations can result in even heavier punitive fines but may also come with a partial or full loss of workforce or loss of a business license.

It is important to note that intentional or not, any of the above situations could possibly result in civil or criminal consequences, which is why the added protection of enlisting the help of digital I-9 software is often utilized.

Regardless of the additional resources a company utilizes, it is crucial for employers to implement proper Form I-9 protocol and ensure that management is properly trained to execute the process from start to finish. Many employers find digital I-9 software to be instrumental in assisting management with I-9 instructions for employers.

 

When it comes to I-9 instructions for employers, the most important steps to take include reading and understanding the form, utilizing available resources such as digital I-9 software, and being proactive in achieving a compliant status.

Can DACA recipients become citizens?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has taken center stage at the United States Capitol in recent years as lawmakers and Americans struggle to define the program’s parameters and constitutionality. Through it all, one of the most frequently asked questions by Americans and immigrants alike continues to be, “Can DACA recipients become citizens?”

Currently, the DACA program does not provide a simple, direct path to citizenship in the United States, but that could change in the near future depending on movement in the legislative and judicial branches of government.

 

The DACA Program

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was established in 2012. The program is thought to have been created with a primary goal of shielding individuals entering the United States as children from deportation. The program also dictated that those who received DACA status could then seek to renew their status every two years.

In 2017, the DACA program was challenged as being unconstitutional, which eventually resulted in the mandate that no new DACA applications be accepted until further notice. In other words, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is not accepting DACA applications from individuals who have never before received a DACA status. Despite halting the acceptance of new applications, those individuals who already have DACA status may still be allowed to apply for renewal.

Currently, the DACA program and its parameters are under review by the United States Supreme Court.  A final ruling from the court is expected sometime in 2020 and could further modify the above guidelines.

 

What DACA Status Means For Recipients

It is estimated that to date, DACA status has been issued to more than 750,000 individuals. These individuals, often labeled to as Dreamers, are thought to be primarily in their twenties and thirties and fairly diverse in their origins.

Those individuals who already have obtained DACA status are generally allowed to remain in the United States. In addition, some DACA recipients may also:

  • Be eligible to acquire work permits
  • Obtain employer provided health insurance
  • Receive education funding
  • Have access to state-subsidized healthcare

 

Can DACA recipients become citizens?

As of January 2020, the DACA program does not provide an open path to United States citizenship.  However, the House of Representatives passed a bill titled H.R.6 – American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 in June of the same year which could potentially change that. The bill is on the Senate Legislative Calendar awaiting review.

If passed into law, this bill could provide DACA recipients with a step toward permanent resident status.  Courtesy of the bill, a pathway to citizenship could be established through avenues such as military service or green cards. The bill also proposes the following:

  • The cancellation of removal proceedings against some aliens entering the United States as minors and with potential permanent residence status for ten years if certain qualifications are met
  • Streamlined procedures leading to permanent residence for DACA recipients that are approved for renewal
  • Removal of a conditional permanent resident status if certain requirements are met
  • Cancellation of removal proceedings for individuals qualifying for temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure status on certain dates
  • A Department of Homeland Security established grant program for nonprofits assisting individuals with certain immigration-related issues

 

While the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may still be in question until an official ruling from the United States Supreme Court is handed down, for now there are no new applications for DACA status being accepted and there remains no direct pathway to citizenship, even for those who have already received DACA status.

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.