What Lookout Services I-9 Intelligence Software Offers vs. E-Verify

Since the passage of the Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986, employers are required by law to verify the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. However, between the Form I-9 and the E-Verify program, both of which assist with employee verification, it can be confusing for employers to know the best approach for each.

Employees are required to fill out a Form I-9 for employers to verify employment eligibility. However, not all employers are required to use the E-Verify program, unless legally required to do so by special stipulations set forth by the federal government.

Increasingly, employers are turning to digital I-9 compliance software such as that offered by Lookout Services to help minimize errors and bridge the gap between these two compliance requirements. Less errors can leave less room for violations and serious consequences such as financial penalties.

Take a few minutes to review this chart to get a clearer picture of helpful features associated with the digital I-9 compliance software and E-Verify:

What Lookout Services Offers Vs. E-Verify

Feature

Purpose

Lookout Services I-9 Intelligence Software

E-Verify Feature

Integration with an Employer’s HRIS/Recruiting Systems

Data feeds from an employer’s HRIS or recruiting tool can be set up to help populate certain data details in the digital Form I-9, reducing errors, saving time and supporting the compliance monitoring practices of an organization.

X

Not applicable

Validation of input

Information required for the Form I-9 is often detail oriented and number heavy which can allow for multiple instances of human error. The I-9 intelligence features creates validation of input into the system, identifying mistakes before the information is submitted, which can also minimize penalties associated with submitting incomplete data.

X

Not applicable

Minimizing Data Entry

By using a digital Form I-9, the data input on the form will automatically populate relevant E-Verify fields which minimizes the amount of information an employer has to enter. This also typically lowers the opportunity for additional mistakes.

X

Not applicable

Avoid Duplicates

If a company has several human resources employees in charge of onboarding general employees, it is possible for more than one Form I-9 to accidentally be created for the same employee. A duplicate alert feature is designed to identify duplicate information before a form is submitted. Without this service to catch duplicate data, fraud issues and charges could be possible.

X

Not applicable

Auto notices & change history log for all Form I-9 Updates

A digital Form I-9 tool can identify expiring document end dates and send auto alerts before those problems become compliance issues. Additionally, a system will track and record actions required and the dates updates were completed while maintaining compliant I-9 forms.

X

Not applicable

Auto Notices & Tracking E-Verify Actions

Timely auto e-mail notices are distributed to employers about case processing errors and actions related to E-Verify submissions; allows employers to print Tentative Non-Confirmation Notices and perform photo match where required by E-Verify.

X

X

Secured Digital Storage

Digitally stored Form I-9s eliminate the need for voluminous secured storage space, and the time-consuming administrative burden of filing and retrieving these critical documents and their relevant attachments.

X

Not applicable

Printable Forms & Information

Especially during the instance of a mock or real audit, having immediate access to printable Form I-9 information (and any change history) is critical. Effective digital I-9 systems provide printable documents which are accessible at any time.

X

Not applicable

Multiple Location Accessibility

Unique access rights can be set up for companies with multiple locations to have access to all of their employment verification programs sites providing corporate level compliance management oversight and data security monitoring.

X

Not applicable

Peace of mind regarding employment verification

Unique access rights can be set up for companies with multiple locations to have access to all of their employment verification programs sites providing corporate level compliance management oversight and data security monitoring.

X

Not applicable

If you are an employer who would like more peace of mind and are interested in obtaining information on how our digital I-9 compliance software can help you with maintaining Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance, please reach out to Lookout Services today.

2021 E-Verify Requirements for Florida

E-Verify is becoming an increasingly valuable part of the hiring process in the U.S. but is not currently mandatory for everyone. However, thanks to a law passed in the state of Florida, public and private employers in that state must comply with applicable E-Verify requirements beginning January 1, 2021. It is important to note that the new 2021 E-Verify law for Florida does not replace the current Form I-9 process. If you are one of these businesses or one of their potential employees, read on about the 2021 E-Verify requirements for Florida because your livelihood could depend on it.

About E-Verify

While the Immigration Reform and Control Act that passed in 1986 does requires businesses to verify an individual’s identity and eligibility to be eligible to work via the Form I-9, the E-Verify program is not universally mandatory for all employers.

Those businesses required to utilize the program are usually asked to do so because they are:

  1. Mandated by an official legal ruling,
  2. Entering into federal contracts or subcontracts with a FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) E-Verify clause,
  3. Operating in a state whose businesses must use E-Verify.

With the passage of the 2021 E-Verify law in Florida, public businesses in that state are now required to use E-Verify.

How E-Verify Works

By federal law, businesses hiring in the United States must complete the Form I-9 process in full. The document is designed to verify employee information and document authentication. The data collected in this form is then used to complete an E-Verify case.

The program is internet based and businesses must open and complete a new E-Verify case for an employee no later than the third business day after their first day at work. Once the case is completed by an employer, the program then compares that information with data already on file with government agencies.

Depending on the specific situation of the employee in question, E-Verify can typically provide verification results in just a few minutes.

2021 E-Verify Requirements for the State of Florida

The new 2021 E-Verify requirements for the state of Florida were passed in the summer of 2020 and went into effect on January 1, 2021. In order to better understand how the new law will affect businesses and individuals, it is important to breakdown a few differences between:

  • public employers
  • private employers

Public employers are generally defined as entities in either county, local, municipal, regional, or state governments or community colleges, public schools, or state universities who hire people to perform work for them for payment.

According to the new E-Verify law, public employers, contractors and subcontractors in the state of Florida are required to officially enroll in the E-Verify program and utilize it to confirm work eligibility status for all new employees.

Due to this specification, the relationship between public contractors and subcontractors becomes more complicated. Subcontractors have to provide contractors with an affidavit showing that they do not hire or work with unauthorized entities. There are some provisions for unknowingly engaging with a subcontractor in violation of this rule, but resolving the situation can still be difficult.

Private employers are generally defined as an entity or person who transacts business in Florida, has a license issued by a state agency, and employs persons to perform labor or services in Florida in exchange for either salary, wages, or other forms of remuneration. There is no minimum threshold that triggers a private employer’s obligation in Florida to comply with the E-Verify law. The Florida mandate clearly indicates that the first requirement of a private employer is to make an offer of employment to an applicant AND the applicant must accept the offer before the employer takes any action to verify the employee’s work authorization. Once these two criteria are met, a private employer in Florida may choose one of two approaches to verify the new hire’s identity and authorization to work:

  1. Utilize the Federal E-Verify program.
  2. Maintain a physical copy of an employee’s Form I-9 supporting identity and work authorization documents for a minimum of three years post the initial hire date.

One note of particular importance under this new law is that in most cases, Florida private employers are not required to verify work eligibility of a continuing employee hired before 2021.

What Could Happen If You Violate the New 2021 E-Verify Law for Florida

For both public and private companies who have done business in Florida for many years prior, this new law can bring sweeping change, and with it an overwhelming amount of work. While all the extra effort required may be tempting to ignore, it is illegal to do so.

Depending on the unique set of circumstances surrounding each violation, those who do not abide by the new Florida E-Verify law may face significant punitive consequences that could result in:

  • Licenses being withheld until an affidavit is provided,
  • Permanent revocation of licenses for a specific business location,
  • Complete revocation of licenses for a business to operate.

No business wants to find themselves without a license to operate when a little extra legwork to comply with the new Florida E-Verify law could have easily prevented it.

How To Simplify the E-Verify Process with Digital Form I-9 Compliance Software

One of the most overwhelming aspects of the Form I-9 and E-Verify process for employers is that it requires a great deal of information processing, which can lead to costly errors. However, employers may find that using digital I-9 compliance software can provide two key perks when it comes to also using E-Verify for employee work eligibility verification:

  1. Accuracy. Digital compliance software is designed to help employees and employers complete an I-9 form with minimal chances of human error. This is key as the information entered digitally into a Form I-9 is then used to auto-populate E-Verify program fields. The minimization of human error in one program leads to the same in E-Verify.
  2. Efficiency. To fill out a Form I-9 for an employee by hand and then manually enter information into an E-Verify case can be time consuming because it is twice the work, something many employers just don’t have time for. By using a digital Form I-9, it allows that information to be seamlessly transferred to E-Verify case fields without much extra effort. The software can save employers valuable time in the long run.

Any business in Florida should consider incorporating digital I-9 software that integrates with E-Verify into their hiring processes to ensure compliance and avoid common mistakes.

What Should Be Included In I-9 Software

Although companies have been performing employee eligibility verification since the passage of the Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986, there is an increased urgency for businesses to be compliant and ready for an audit. In the last several years, there has been an uptick in the number of workplace audits and investigations regarding Form I-9 compliance. For this reason, employers are turning to digital I-9 software as a resource, but before partnering with a provider, companies need to be crystal clear on what should be included in I-9 software.

What is Digital I-9 Software?

Onboarding an employee is time intensive all on its own, especially for those businesses that have dozens of employees and/or multiple locations. For every employee that is hired, the law requires a Form I-9 be completed to verify their eligibility to work within the United States. Each form has three sections with individual instructions, guidelines, and deadlines.

Digital Form I-9 software can be helpful in streamlining this process by making it paperless and minimizing human error, which can sometimes cause compliance issues that come with heavy penalties.

What Features Should Be Included In Form I-9 Software?

Digital I-9 software is designed to be an efficient, user friendly, comprehensive product that helps employers navigate everything from the Form I-9 to the E-Verify program requirements. Some of the features clients should expect in a reputable I-9 software should include:

Minimization of Errors.

A Form I-9 with an incomplete field, empty field, or missing signature can all be red flags for compliance, but an intelligent I-9 software program with dynamic prompts should minimize the amount of these errors by providing instant alerts to employers prior to submitting a form.

Assistance Confirming Acceptable Documents.

USCIS defines a set outline of acceptable documents, and employees must provide an employer with both an approved identificationa and a work authorization document. Employers are required to collect and review these documents for authenticity to the best of their abilities and by specific guidelines set forth in the Form I-9. An intelligent I-9 software will help employers by providing samples of the listed acceptable document which they can compare to the documents provided by the employee.

Deadline Alerts and Audit Log.

A good I-9 software program will provide several options for employers to manage their compliance responsibilities including a management dashboard, e-mail alerts for impending deadlines where work authorization re-verification is required or other E-Verify compliance actions are required. On demand management reports for monitoring compliance are also key to any effective I-9 software. An audit trail, or otherwise called “change history” of all I-9 form changes should be available in the I-9 software for all forms that require updates during the required retention period of the employee’s form.

Integration.

Integration is key to efficiency, and the very best digital I-9 software will be integrated with E-Verify and will provide an option to be seamlessly integrated with an employer’s on-boarding and payroll systems, creating an exceptional user experience for both the employee and HR professionals involved in completing the Form I-9.

Document Retention and Accessibility.

Whether it is for a mock audit or the impromptu real thing, employers should have software that will grant them access to forms as needed. In addition, the software should assist an employer in managing the proper retention policies for all I-9 forms.

Security.

High performing security and privacy protocols must be put in to place to securely encrypt and store sensitive information.

Why Businesses Need Digital I-9 Software with E-Verify Integration

While it is not advisable, even employers who think they can adequately handle the above tasks for every new hire they have on their own will find the I-9 software to be particularly valuable when working with the federal E-Verify program.

A few features of digital I-9 software that can be advantageous when also working with E-Verify can be:

  • Single data entry. Reputable digital I-9 software should have the ability to auto populate E-Verify fields with the information from the Form I-9 which can help cut down on additional incidence of human error.
  • Duplication alerts. A software program can usually detect duplicate form entries before submitting through E-Verify, which notifies employers of potential social security fraud.
  • Save time. By using a reputable I-9 software that is integrated with E-Verify, the employer can seamlessly perform all required compliance actions involving the tentative non-confirmation notices to employees as an employee notice feature is built into the workflow of a digital I-9 software, avoiding time consuming manual steps and tracking.

If your company is already stretched to its limits in handling new hires or is interested in simply streamlining a sometimes-cumbersome process, consider digital I-9 software to add valuable peace of mind to the hiring process.

Why You Shouldn’t Depend Solely on E-Verify

When it comes to Form I-9 compliance, a multi-tiered approach is best because depending on one resource alone can leave employers exposed to expensive mistakes that could have been avoided. This is just one of the reasons why you shouldn’t depend solely on E-Verify. Ideally, employers should utilize digital I-9 compliance software as well as the E-Verify program for optimal compliance coverage that can provide added peace of mind.

 

Filling Out the Form I-9

The Form I-9 is the first order of business for employers and new employees. This documentation is required to verify an employee’s identity and employment eligibility in the U.S. There are three main sections to the Form I-9:

  1. Section 1. This first section of the form deals primarily with employee information. An employee is required to complete this section by their first day of employment. Employers must ensure it is completed correctly.
  2. Section 2. This second section deals with identity verification and employer review and must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of work. Employees are required to provide approved Form I-9 documents to an employer. The employer then must examine and when appropriate vouch for their apparent authenticity.
  3. Section 3. This last section is dedicated to rehires and reverifications. If an employee’s work authorization expires, their name legally changes, or they have been rehired within three years of the date on the original Form I-9, this section must be completed.

While the Form I-9 is universally mandatory for employers in the United States, some helpful resources such as digital I-9 compliance software and E-Verify are not.

 

E-Verify, the Program

E-Verify is a federal program that enables employers to ensure their employees are eligible to work via matching a Form I-9 to an individual’s files on record with the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. In many cases the program also offers a photo identification for identity comparison.

An employer that has enrolled in the E-Verify program can open a case to verify an employee’s work eligibility. After submission, employees may hear back in under twenty-four hours while other more complex cases may take extended amounts of time. E-Verify will let an employer know about a case’s final results or issues with a case as soon as possible.

While E-Verify is primarily voluntary, enrollment can be required for some employers if:

  • They have federal contracts or subcontracts including the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)
  • They are geographically located in a state mandating enrollment in E-Verify
  • They are mandated to do so via a legal ruling

The E-Verify program is largely considered to be an asset when used in conjunction with digital I-9 compliance software, but it may not be wise to depend on it alone.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Depend Solely on E-Verify

In the quest to be Form I-9 compliant, it can be tempting to rely entirely on E-Verify to alert users to transposed numbers and potential eligibility issues. However, using E-Verify alone without the assistance of digital Form I-9 software can leave users susceptible to costly missteps.

Some of the features offered by digital I-9 compliance software that offer an extra layer of protection for the employer and that are not used by the E-Verify program alone are:

  • Validation of input. When an employer fills out a Form I-9, digital software is designed to assist with catching common human errors that can occur when inputting information. Catching these mistakes before the form is submitted may result in the reduction or avoidance of penalties that can be issued for submitting an incomplete form.
  • Minimization of input. An employee that fills out a hardcopy of a Form I-9 by hand requires an employer to manually type in that information into E-Verify with an eye for detail. By using digital software, the data put into a digital Form I-9 can automatically populate E-Verify fields to cut down on input errors that result from retyping information over and over.
  • Alerts of duplicated forms before submission. Digital software is designed to recognize duplicate information in Form I-9s and if found usually sends an alert to an employer before the form is officially submitted. This can essentially cut down on accidental duplicates or intentional fraud.
  • Practice encouraged. When working with digital software, there is typically a component that lets an employer practice entering information first, rather than beginning with a real employee. This can help an employer feel more confident about the process when beginning to enter employee information in earnest.
  • Paperless digital trail. The digital I-9 compliance software permits employers to securely and digitally store forms that are also searchable and retrievable.
  • Tracking capabilities. When completing Form I-9s by hand, it can be overwhelming for employers to try to keep up with tracking expired work authorizations, as well as when forms should be purged. Digital compliance software includes a feature that alerts employers of these potential problems before they become a compliance issue.

 

Potential Consequences for Not Being Form I-9 Compliant

Being I-9 compliant is not just a good rule of thumb, it is the law via the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Companies that are found in an audit not to be in compliance can be issued criminal and civil violations.

Criminal violations tend to be the more serious of the two. This type of offense generally involves illegal patterns of recruiting, hiring, or referring unauthorized aliens for a fee. Each instance of a criminal violation can be assigned a penalty, which can add up quickly for companies.

Civil violations pertain more to employment verification requirements, knowingly hiring or continuing to employ an unauthorized individual for employment, document abuse, document fraud, and failed notification of non-confirmation regarding an employee’s employment eligibility.

 

It is worth noting that the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations regarding I-9 compliance have quadrupled in recent years, with many estimating the trend will continue for the foreseeable future. With investigations on the rise, companies simply cannot afford to be found out of compliance with federal law. If you have questions about Form I-9 protocol, E-Verify, or compliance, please reach out to Lookout Services today.

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.