By Jenny Sherman, SPHR CCP, Director of HR Services, Trupp HR.
The long-awaited revised I-9 form has been published by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Employers should start using the new form immediately and not later than May 7, 2013. The updated form has a new look with additional fields.
Compliance audits have been on the rise, increasing from only three in 2004 to 3,004 in 2012. Making sure you are using the right forms and following the explicit instructions for completing the forms is essential. Penalties steadily increase in amount with each additional error (offense) identified in the audit. For example if over 50% of the current employee I-9s have paperwork errors, the penalty can be as high as $900 per error. If the violation is for unauthorized workers, the penalty for a third offense could be as high as $16,000. This data is according to information published by a Society of Human Resource Management’s legal writer, Allen Smith, on March 15, 2013.
Employers with a remote workforce are especially vulnerable because the rules related to in-person employer verification requirements are very strict. Fax and scanned copies of documents and the employee signature do not satisfy the documentation requirements for an employer, complicating the 72 hour requirement to obtain the signed I-9 form when starting a new employee. Some employers have responded by contracting with a notary to act as the company representative and provide official verification.
In recent years, the USCIS developed an internet-based system, E Verify, which allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. It’s easy and it’s free to use. However, it does not, replace the requirement for I-9 Form completion. E Verify is voluntary except for certain federal contractors. As of September 8, 2009, federal contractors doing work under a FAR E Verify contract clause are required to use E Verify along with the I-9 documentation process. Whether a contract requires the FAR E Verify clause or not is determined by the government contracting official. Employers can find details on this requirement in the Supplemental Guide for Federal Contractors.
Verifying the work authorization for employees remains a high priority for employers and enforcement is increasing.
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