New E-Verify Law for Florida

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

 

How E-Verify Typically Works

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

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

The Form I-9 has three main sections:

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

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

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

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

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

 

New E-Verify Law for Florida

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Streamline the Use of E-Verify

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

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

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

 

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

Developing an I-9 Compliance Plan

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

 

6 Steps to Developing an I-9 Compliance Plan

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

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

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

 

Understanding the Form I-9

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

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

 

Why Employers Should Take I-9 Compliance Seriously

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

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

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

 

How Digital I-9 Software Can Help

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

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

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

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

 

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

Applicant Tracking Software

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

 

What is Applicant Tracking Software?

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

 

The Form I-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Applicant Tracking Software Can Help The I-9 Process

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

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

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

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

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

Can I-9 Be Completed Prior to Start Date?

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

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

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

 

The Structure of a Form I-9

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Valid Forms of ID for the I-9

As set forth in the 1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act, employees applying to work at businesses in the United States must fill out a Form I-9, which helps establish identity and eligibility to work. This federal form requires basic information from employees as well as one or more of valid forms of ID that attest to the employee’s identification. Employers are then responsible for reviewing the documents in good faith for authenticity.

The entire process can sound deceptively simple, but many employers struggle in particular with questions about valid forms of ID for I-9s. To help companies navigate this aspect of the Form I-9 and others, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services created a roughly one-hundred-page manual. While this resource can be of assistance, many companies are also enlisting the help of digital I-9 software for paperless solutions that help save time and minimize human error.

 

Valid Forms of ID for the I-9

The second section of the Form I-9 is the part that deals most directly with valid forms of ID. Depending on the unique circumstances of each employee, one or more documents proving identification from Lists A, B, or C may be required.

The primary purpose of List A documents is to establish identity and employment authorization. Some of the documents employees can choose to present from this list include:

  • United States Passport or United States Passport Card.
  • Foreign Passports. This type of identification should be presented with required forms, proper notations, and stamps.
  • Permanent Resident Card. These are sometimes referred to as “green cards” and must not have expired to be considered valid. This card usually has a signature unless marked with the official notation of “signature waived.”
  • Previous Permanent Resident Card. This form of ID typically requires a signature unless it is marked with the official designation of “signature waived.”
  • Previous Employment Authorization Document. To be acceptable, this official document cannot be expired.
  • Employment Authorization Card. This card must not have expired to be considered valid.

The primary purpose of List B documents is to simply establish identity, and most employees who present a document from List B will also need to present a document from List C. Some of the valid forms of ID for I-9s on List B can include:

  • Driver’s License. To be valid, the license must be from the United States or one of its outlying territories. It must display a photo or detailed personal description and address and must not be expired.
  • ID Card Issued by a State or Outlying Territory of the United States. This form of ID often requires the employee provide additional information.
  • Voter Registration Card.
  • Federal, State, or Local Government Agency or Entity ID. These forms of identification must be official and may require additional information.
  • United States Military Card or Draft Record.
  • Military Dependent’s ID Card.
  • ID For Minors. For most minors, identification in the form of an official medical record, a school record, or a report card will suffice.

List C documents generally show identity and authorization to work in the U.S. and are presented in tandem with one or more List B documents. Valid forms of ID for I-9s regarding List C generally include:

  • S. Social Security Account Number Card. This card must be unrestricted, meaning it must not say “not valid for employment” or “valid for work only with…”
  • United States Citizen ID Card.
  • Original or Certified Copy of Birth Certificate Issued by a State, County, Municipal Authority, or Outlying Territory of the United States. To be valid, this certificate must bear an official seal.
  • Certification of Birth Abroad. This certification should be issued by the U.S. Department of State to be valid.
  • Certification Report of Birth. This certification must also be issued by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States.
  • Native American Tribal Document.

 

How to Examine Valid Forms of ID for the I-9

As long as an employee provides sufficient documentation that sensibly gives the impression of being genuine, relates to that specific employee, and is listed as an acceptable document on List A, B, or C of the Form I-9, employers may accept the documentation.

If an employee presents a document from List A, B, or C that does not appear to be genuine or relating to the employee, employers can reject the document and ask the employee for a different form of ID as specified by the Form I-9, but must not be discriminatory in doing so.

 

Digital I-9 Software and I-9 Documents

When it comes to organizing valid forms of ID for I-9s, digital I-9 software can help to organize and streamline the process. Some of the ways digital I-9 software can help employers manage valid forms of ID for I-9s include:

  • Software should provide employees with an advance list of the questions and fields that must be answered on the Form I-9. This allows employees to adequately prepare so Form I-9 timelines can be met. Employers should also receive a checklist to keep the form process on task.
  • Action Reminders. The software program usually assists in keeping track of expired identification documents and should prompt employers with an action alert if an expiration date is impending.
  • Paperless Solutions. Perhaps one of the best features of digital I-9 software is its ability to digitize and archive documents. This method is key in providing centralized reporting abilities.

 

By learning more about the valid forms of ID for I-9s, employers can feel confident in the process and rely on digital I-9 software to assist with compliance.

How to Handle an Ice Audit

With the incidence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations estimated to have quadrupled in recent years and the number of Form I-9 audits and audit-related arrests estimated to have also increased, it is more important than ever for employers to be able to prepare for and know how to handle an ICE audit.

Since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the federal government requires employers to have all employees complete a Form I-9 to help establish identity and authorization to work within the United States. Federal law agencies such as Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part of, also have the right to announce an audit or conduct a raid to review an employer’s Form I-9 procedure and overall compliance.

However, employers who are well versed in proper Form I-9 protocol and how to handle an ICE audit should have more peace of mind in the event that the company receives a Notice Of Inspection (NOI).

 

Ice Audits and the Form I-9

According to federal law, ICE is responsible for enforcing I-9 compliance mandates through the Homeland Security Investigations Division, which can also be referred to as the Worksite Enforcement Unit. While Homeland Security is responsible for overseeing a number of domestic and international situations, audits for I-9 compliance are a small but serious portion of the organization’s job.

In recent years, the number of audits are said to have increased so dramatically that the organization has had to pull in a number of employees for additional help during times when there is a high surge of activity. This situation alone should be enough motivation to propel a company to be proactive in being Form I-9 compliant.

 

What can trigger an I-9 audit?

One of the most common questions employers ask is, “How likely am I to be subjected to a compliance audit?” More often than not, the answer to that question depends on:

  • Credible Tips. Whether a tip is submitted via phone or online, it is typically first examined for credibility. It is not unusual for Homeland Security to receive a tip from a current or former disgruntled employee or even a disgruntled competitor.
  • Previous Audits. It is not uncommon for companies that have been previously audited to also have a follow up visit. Employers who have already experienced one Form I-9 audit should follow all of the investigator’s recommendations in preparation for what could become audit number two.
  • Red Flag From a Government Agency. In some cases another government agency could red flag a company if there is concern related to something like wage investigation or a company being an Equal Employment Opportunity employer.
  • Mismatch Letter Receipt. Companies that receive a letter from the Social Security Administration acknowledging that a social security number does not match a person’s name could eventually be subjected to an audit. In many cases a mismatch letter can simply be the result of human error.

Regardless of what triggered the audit, employers receiving a NOI should be prepared to turn over Form I-9 documents to the federal government to prove compliance.

 

Form I-9 Violation Consequences

If a company is audited there are several key things that investigators will be looking for, which may include:

  • A completed Form I-9 for all current employees
  • Adherence to Form I-9 deadlines
  • Proper Form I-9 protocol

After a review of these primary areas, investigators may then assign fines or other consequences for violations that are civil or criminal in nature.

Civil fines generally related to incomplete forms, missing signatures, and missed deadlines can be as high as several thousand dollars per offense.

Consequences for criminal violations such as patterns of knowingly hiring undocumented individuals or harboring individuals in the U.S. could result in heavy fines, loss of workforce, or loss of a business license. Additional areas that could result in damaging consequences may include criminal violations such as perjury, VISA fraud, identity fraud, identity theft, tax fraud, or mistreatment of workers.

 

How to Handle an ICE Audit

One of the best ways to handle an ICE audit is preparation. With the number of worksite investigations on the rise, every company should be making every reasonable effort to get its Form I-9 protocol in order. While the process can sound daunting, resources such as digital I-9 software may be able to help.

Digital I-9 software typically offers users the following features:

  • Printable checklist for employees to get familiar with the information that will be requested the first day of work
  • Printable checklist for employers to help keep track of an employee’s Form I-9 progress
  • Error Alerts for blank fields, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • Document expiration alerts for documents that are set to soon expire
  • Document archiving guidance
  • Centralized reporting that can provide compliance reports at any time
  • Audit assistance

Once a firm I-9 compliance resource is in place, it is crucial to train management. Fortunately, most digital software programs are designed to be user-friendly and require minimal training for proper use.  From that point on, it is crucial that the employer maintains consistency in management, including holding regular training on Form I-9 protocol and periodic training management on digital I-9 software for current and new management alike.

 

By learning what typically prompts an audit, what ICE looks for in an audit, and how to handle an ICE audit with digital I-9 software, employers can be better equipped and prepared to achieve and maintain compliance.

How Do You Fill Out an I-9 Form

One of the most frequently asked questions of employers and employees alike is, “How do you fill out an I-9 form?” The question does not yield a short answer, but by learning more about the I-9 form and resources available to help with the form’s completion, the process of filling out the form can be both manageable and efficient.

 

What is an I-9 form?

Before learning how to fill out the Form I-9, it is helpful to know its origins and understand why it is important. The Form I-9 is a byproduct of the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed in 1986. This form was essentially designed by the federal government to verify an individual’s identity and eligibility to work within the United States.

 

Are employees required to fill out the Form I-9?

It is the law for employers to have employees complete a Form I-9. All employees working in the United States are required to fill out a Form I-9 to prove eligibility authorization. As soon as an employer offers a job to an individual, the employee can begin filling out the Form I-9. The employer is responsible for getting the form to the employee and ensuring that the individual properly completes it within the form’s allotted deadlines.

 

How can I get a Form I-9?

Many employers may already have a blank Form I-9 on hand, but it can also generally be found online at the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and may be downloaded to your computer.

 

How do you fill out an I-9 form?

The Form I-9 is comprised of three main sections. Each section requires a different set of information or documentation and has a unique deadline. In order to be compliant, employers must ensure that all three sections are completed properly and on time.

Section 1

The first section of the Form I-9 is generally used for establishing the identity of the employee. For the purpose of this section, employees are typically asked to provide basic information such as:

  • Full name
  • Birth date
  • Contact information
  • Social Security number

In addition to confirming the employee’s identity, this first section of the form is also designed to confirm the employee’s legal eligibility to work in the United States by proving:

  • Citizenship
  • Status of nonresident national of the United States
  • Lawful permanent residency
  • Authorization as an alien to work in the United States

As dictated by the form, this section must be completed by the employee’s first day of employment.

Section 2

Much of the second section of the form is the employer’s responsibility, and it involves the employee’s documentation. The Form I-9 has three lists of documents that are approved to use for this section:

  • List A Documents: The approved documents on this list generally establish an employee’s identity and employment authorization.
  • List B Documents: The approved documents on List B are used for establishing the identity of an employee. If an employee uses a document from List B, presenting a document from List C is also typically required.
  • List C Documents: The documents on this list are used to establish an employee’s work authorization in the United States. If presenting a document from List C, an approved document from List B is also usually required.

This section of the I-9 Form must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment. Employers are required to examine each document in good faith for authenticity. It is worth noting that perjury penalties can be assigned for knowingly presenting fraudulent documents.

Section 3

This last section of the form comes into play if an employee has a name change, a renewal of an expiring work authorization, or is a rehire within three years of the date on the original Form I-9. Employers are largely responsible for section three.

 

Additional Resources for Filling Out An I-9 Form

Employers who have specific questions about the Form I-9, questions about how to fill out an I-9 form, or the corresponding deadlines may wish to seek out additional resources to facilitate the process.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Handbook for Employers M-274 may be a good resource for employers. The manual is rather extensive and can typically be downloaded and printed for reference.

A user-friendly option that many employers are increasingly turning to is digital I-9 compliance software.  These software programs are created to guide employers through each step of how to fill out an I-9 form and help minimize common human errors made on the form. Reputable software programs should also be able to interface with the E-Verify program.

 

How Compliance Software Can Make Filling Out I-9 Forms Easier

Digital I-9 compliance software can provide an extra layer of protection and peace of mind for employers. It is specifically designed to be user-friendly, detail oriented, efficient, and can be particularly useful for employers with multiple office locations.

Some of the benefits of working with digital I-9 compliance software can include:

  • A digital and paperless solution
  • Minimization of commonly made human errors such as blank fields, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • Printable checklists for employees and employers to facilitate the Form I-9 process
  • Time-sensitive reminders regarding the deadlines of each section of the form
  • Document tracking to allow employers to update Form I-9 documents before they expire and become a roadblock to compliance
  • Document archiving reminders
  • Centralized reporting for audits

 

By enlisting the help of resources such as digital I-9 compliance software, learning how to fill out an I-9 form can be less stressful for employers and employees.

Q: Do all employees have to fill out a Form I-9 for employers?

A:  Yes, they do.

Q: Is there a program that helps fill out an I-9 form?

A:  Yes, employers may want to consider purchasing digital I-9 compliance software.

Q: Can you fill out an I-9 form electronically?

A:  Digital I-9 compliance software digitizes the Form I-9.

Q: Can the I-9 Form be completed before an employee starts work?

A:  Yes, as long as the employer has extended a job offer.

Q: What happens if an employer doesn’t have an I-9 form for an employee?

A:  The employer can be found not compliant and may be subject to punitive consequences.

Does E-Verify Cost Anything

Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers are required to verify and authenticate their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. Since the passage of this law, employers’ responsibilities are numerous and deadline-oriented when it comes to the proper completion of the Form I-9. The process can be tedious, which is why businesses are increasingly utilizing additional resources such as E-Verify and digital I-9 compliance software that includes an E-Verify component.

E-Verify is a free web-based system created following the passage of the United States’ Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The goal of the system is to aid employers with the eligibility to work verification process by electronically matching an employee’s Form I-9 information against records accessible by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

An employer is often better prepared to be I-9 compliant by combining thorough research on the Form I-9 process and using additional resources such as E-Verify and digital I-9 compliance software.

 

How E-Verify Works

The E-Verify system uses the information provided by employees on the Form I-9 to verify the employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. The I-9 form is a one-page legal document that is required to be completed by employees and employers via specific guidelines and deadlines.

There are three main sections of the Form I-9. The first section is almost entirely dedicated to employee information and attestation. By the first day of employment, employees must accurately complete the form and employers should verify that the employee completed the section correctly. The second section of the form requires an employee to provide the necessary Form I-9 documents, and the employer must examine and vouch for the apparent authenticity of the documents…all within three business days of an employee’s first day on the job. The third section is primarily reserved for the purpose of reverification and rehires. This section must be completed if an employee’s name has legally changed, he/she is rehired within three years of the date on the Form I-9, or the employee’s work authorization has expired.

Once the Form I-9 has been completed by an employee, the employer can utilize E-Verify with that information to ensure work eligibility. The E-Verify program is geared to be user friendly and is accessible via the internet. It is designed to simply enhance the Form I-9 process, not take the place of it.  To use the program to verify employee work eligibility, an employer must simply be officially enrolled.

E-Verify allows enrolled employers to verify each employees’ eligibility to work by electronically matching the Form I-9 information of employees to records accessible by both the SSA and the DHS. One of the bonuses of utilizing E-Verify is that it may even have access to a photo of an employee to compare with any photo identification he/she submitted to the employer. Photos can be an added layer of protection if provided by the E-Verify system.

In many cases, E-Verify can provide work authorization for employees in approximately twenty-four hours or less. However, in some cases a manual review of records within government databases may be required and could take an extended period of time. In this particular instance, E-Verify typically lets employers know if this is the situation and will then eventually follow up with the final results. If for some reason there is not a match on E-Verify, the system sends procedures to the employer on how to proceed with that particular employee.

Combining the E-Verify system and digital I-9 compliance software with the Form I-9 may be an employer’s best proactive effort when it comes to staying I-9 compliant.

A company’s I-9 compliance is evaluated during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigation, which may or may not be announced in advance. Any I-9 violations can result in substantial consequences and penalties. Violations can be criminal or civil and carry a fine per employee. These fines can add up when multiple violations are found, and they may ultimately negatively impact a company’s bottom line.

 

Is E-Verify Required?

In many cases, a company’s enrollment in the E-Verify program is voluntary, however there are some exceptions to this rule. Employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that include the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause are required to enroll. Businesses located within a state that mandates enrollment in E-Verify must abide by the law and do so. Some employers may also be legally required to enroll in the E-Verify program after a legal ruling is handed down.

The E-Verify program is currently available to all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

An estimated 750,000 employers are thought to be registered with E-Verify, and twenty-two states currently require some type of participation.

While some companies choose to utilize the E-Verify system on their own, others who may experience a shortage of staff, time, and means often opt to hire an E-Verify employer agent to help them navigate the process. It is worth noting that these agents are not certified nor are their fees regulated by the government.

 

Benefits of an E-Verify Employer Agent

An E-Verify employer agent’s job is to work closely with a company and E-Verify to determine an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. In addition to federal law, these agents can also help companies comply with state laws.

In general, most E-Verify employer agents wear several hats and can assist companies with:

  • Determining an employee’s work eligibility
  • Conducting background checks for employees
  • Providing legal assistance and accounting services

 

Take some time to research the E-Verify program and consider if it is right for your company. Regardless of your decision, the goal is to keep your company Form I-9 compliant and hopefully avoid violations and expensive penalties.

HR Onboarding Software

Over the span of a year, American businesses collectively do hundreds if not millions of new hires that can be facilitated by HR onboarding software. This digital software helps overwhelmed employers and human resources departments simplify the Form I-9 component of the hiring process and provides an added measure of confidence in being compliant with government regulations.

The passage of the Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986 yielded a legal document, better known as the Form I-9, created to establish an individual’s identity and employment eligibility for working in the United States. Completion of this form is required of all employees who began working in 1987 and beyond.

Certain departments of the United States’ Homeland Security Department may conduct announced or unannounced Form I-9 audits at a business. Some audits may come with one- or two-days warning and others may come with no notice at all. During an audit, those businesses who are found not to be Form I-9 compliant can receive costly fines. Depending on the type of violation, businesses could be issued hefty fines, suffer a loss of workforce, or even the loss of a business license.

With the stakes so high, many businesses are doing everything they can to be compliant and prepared, often with the help of HR onboarding software.

 

What is HR onboarding software?

HR onboarding software, sometimes referred to as digital I-9 software, is designed to simplify and digitize the Form I-9 process. It assists employers with everything from preparation checklists to highlighting common errors to staying on top of Form I-9 deadlines that could potentially affect a company’s ability to be compliant. The software is an added resource in navigating the Form I-9 procedure that may provide employers with a more comprehensive peace of mind when it comes to preparing for potential audits.

 

HR Onboarding Software and the Form I-9

The Form I-9 may seem simple to navigate but can be more complex than it appears, especially when multiplied by numerous new hires for a business. Particularly because of the fast-paced deadlines associated with different sections of the Form I-9, it can be all too easy to make mistakes. HR onboarding software was created to help minimize common Form I-9 mistakes such as those below:

  • Form Inconsistencies. Missing and inaccurate Form I-9s can be reason for a company to be found not compliant. With HR onboarding software, missing forms become less of an issue when information is digitized and paperless. The software can also be instrumental in catching blank or incomplete fields and missing signatures on the form, mistakes of which can negatively impact a company’s Form I-9 audit.
  • Different sections of the Form I-9 have specific timelines for completion that can be easy for employers to miss when swamped with day to day responsibilities. Digital I-9 software is designed to provide helpful reminders to employers about upcoming deadlines.
  • Document Tracking. The Form I-9 requires employees to provide one or more identification documents to the employer. It is the employer’s responsibility to verify all collected documents.  HR onboarding software assists companies in tracking document collection.
  • Documentation Follow Up. If an employee’s documentation is set to expire during the course of their employment, it can be grounds for compliance issues if no measures have been taken to attain new proof of eligibility prior to the documents’ expiration. The software can aid employers with timely reminders about soon to be expired documents for employees.

 

Why use onboarding software?

HR onboarding software can be an asset when it comes to catching common Form I-9 mistakes like the ones listed above, but its benefits go far beyond that feature. The user-friendly software is designed to help streamline the Form I-9 process from start to finish to help businesses be compliant and maintain that status.

Depending on the provider, software programs may vary slightly in design, but employers can generally expect some of the following:

  • Digital System. By using digital Form I-9 software, employers can have access to a paperless solution. While cutting down on the number of papers associated with new hires is often desirable, it is usually even more so for employers who are juggling hiring at a company with multiple locations.
  • Preparation Checklists. The amount of information required on a Form I-9 on an employee’s first day of work can be overwhelming. To help employees be better prepared, many HR onboarding software programs provide an advance peek at what information will be required.  Employers should also have access to a checklist that helps keep the Form I-9 process moving forward with specific action items.
  • Form Assistance. The Form I-9 is a complex document that requires a number of information fields and signature lines to be completed. HR onboarding software can help employers catch human errors on the form such as blank or incomplete fields and missing signatures. It can also provide prompts to employers regarding expiring documents that require action to avoid compliance issues.
  • E-Verify Interface. Companies enrolled in the E-Verify program will appreciate the way it interacts with HR onboarding software. The two should work well together, allowing for the system to auto-populate, send important alerts, and flag open cases.
  • Flexible Reporting and Audit Support. One of the features of HR onboarding software used by diligent management is flexible reporting. This component of the program lets employers access reports at any time to assess compliance. In the case of an official audit, the software company should be able to provide auditors with details about specific operations and an audit trail as well as a mass printing of a business’ Form I-9 records and attachments.

 

The stakes for not being I-9 compliant can be costly, and that is why businesses are increasingly turning to HR onboarding software to help them navigate the pitfalls of staying compliant with an increased peace of mind.

Rehire Guide for Restaurants

As new federal and local government mandates are issued regarding the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants that have been forced to lay off workers are already grappling with how to be I-9 compliant as they anticipate quickly onboarding employees after the pandemic-related closures are lifted.

Differentiating between furloughs and layoffs, knowing if a Form I-9 and E-Verify is still required, and enlisting professional compliance assistance will help determine restaurant owners’ path forward. Understanding now how to rehire laid off restaurant employees will expedite the process when it is time to put a plan into action.

 

Rehiring: Furloughs vs. Layoffs

Although it is not uncommon to hear furloughs and layoffs in the same sentence, the two terms are entirely different in meaning and implication.

  • Furloughs: A restaurant who furloughs workers is asking employees to essentially take an unpaid leave of absence. This is a temporary arrangement that is typically made in hopes of having an employee return to their job again in the not so distant future. In some cases, employees that are furloughed may even be able to retain some of their health benefits. For employers, the most important distinction is that furloughed workers generally do not have to go through a formal rehiring process.
  • Layoffs: Restaurants who are forced to lay off staff are basically releasing employees from that particular place of employment. Unlike being furloughed, the act of being laid off is considered a permanent termination of employment including benefits. Depending on the amount of time an employee is laid off, those employees that choose to return to an employer are more likely to be required to endure the formal rehiring process, at least in part.

 

Will a Form I-9 and E-Verify still be needed for restaurant rehires?

While the coronavirus pandemic is causing some small changes to parts of the overall hiring process, as of April 2, 2020 the Form I-9 is still a requirement to being I-9 compliant, and those companies already required to use the E-Verify system must continue to do so.

As the pandemic continues and uncertainty looms, it is critical that restaurants keep a close eye on any potential changes to the rehiring process in order to stay I-9 compliant and avoid possible punitive consequences.

To be fined or punished for non-compliance would likely be detrimental for a restaurant still getting back on its feet in a post-coronavirus pandemic world.

 

What To Do When Rehiring Employees Within Three Years Of The Employees Original Start Date

Restaurants who intend to simply rehire laid off employees may have the advantage of less steps to walk through if the employees are being rehired within three years of the date on their original Form I-9.

If an employee is rehired within three years of the date listed on their original Form I-9, the employer has the option of relying on the previous Form I-9 or having the employee complete a new one.

Employers who choose to rely on an employee’s previous Form I-9 (completed in the three years since the date on their original form), are still required to follow several additional guidelines:

  1. Employees that remain employment authorized as indicated on the original Form I-9 are not required to provide new documentation. In this case, employers must complete Section Three of the original Form I-9, sign, and date it.
  2. Employees whose employment authorization has expired must have their employment authorization re-verified via Section Three of the Form I-9. Employers should note that Section Three on the current version of the Form I-9 must be filled out. Filling out Section Three on older versions of the Form I-9 are not acceptable.
  3. Employees that have a Form I-9 with Section Three already completed must complete the same section on a new form and keep it attached to the existing Form I-9 paperwork.

 

Rehiring Employees After Three Years From The Employee’s Original Hire Date

Restaurants who are hoping to rehire employees that have an original Form I-9 date that is older than three years from today’s date, are required to complete a Form I-9.

In other words, an employer that is rehiring an employee that has worked for them for more than twenty years must still require that employee to fill out a new Form I-9.

 

How Lookout Services Can Help

Rehiring an employee at any point can be time consuming from a compliance standpoint. However, with the added urgency of reopening a restaurant post-coronavirus pandemic, the work involved to rehire and stay I-9 compliant can be somewhat overwhelming.

With more than twenty years of experience, Lookout Services is uniquely positioned to help restaurants meet the challenges of the rehiring process via digital I-9 compliance software which offers the following benefits:

  • A facilitated process that often saves time
  • A digital I-9 solution
  • Minimization of common Form I-9 errors including blank fields, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • Printable checklists for employers and employees
  • Time sensitive notices regarding multiple Form I-9 deadlines
  • Document tracking and archiving
  • Centralized reporting

 

If you are anticipating rehiring your restaurant employees post-coronavirus and require guidance on how to quickly onboard workers while still maintaining I-9 compliance, we hope you will consider enlisting Lookout Services as one of the newest members of your team.