A New I-9 Form
As if you didn’t already have enough to keep up with—on September 18, 2017, there is a new I-9 Form that we must use. What is the I-9 form? The I-9 is simply the form used to verify the eligibility of someone you want to hire to work legally in the U.S. If you are an employer you are required to verify every individual that you hire.
If you have hired an employee and do not obtain required and appropriate documentation you may be fined penalties which have recently nearly doubled. The fines and penalties are for each category that has not been properly completed or verified. You are not just responsible for filling them out but you must also maintain them. Penalties and fines can add up quickly.
Did you know that it is “best practice” to keep a separate I-9 Form file for each of your employees? Do not keep them in with other documents for that employee. Why? It is elementary, dear Watson (remember Sherlock Holmes). I-9 Form audits are on the rise, you may have already been asked to show an official your I-9 Forms to see if you comply. If you are audited and the person doing the audit notices that you are not in compliance with some of your other forms—they may pass this information on to another regulatory body. This will most likely result in yet another audit.
When did all this start? In 1986 the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed, in which Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification had to be completed for all new full-time and part-time employees. It does not need to be completed for independent contractors. The burden of proof falls completely on the employer to ensure that all employees, citizens and noncitizens, are correctly identified and legally authorized to work in the US.
Form I-9 is not a big scary form, but the instructions must be read carefully and adhered to—pay attention to the details. It is advisable to seek guidance, sometimes, beyond just reading the instructions.
What are the changes?
The basic document has remained the same, the acceptable documents list and retention requirements have not changed. There are now three ways to complete Form I-9: 1) manually, pen to paper, 2) electronically, then print and sign, or 3) use an electronic I-9 vendor. The written instructions for Form I-9 has increased from 6 pages to 15 pages, you know, to simplify things (cough, cough!).
Even though these documents must be witnessed for verification by the Employer, it has some of us puzzled as to why webcams or some other forms of technology are not acceptable to aide in proving that these verification documents were presented.
Just a reminder – Employers do not have to update or use the new I-9 for existing employees.
You do not have to worry about this – just read the instructions carefully, watching for details. If you need help, ask for it.
Heidi Shadel is a Cumberland business owner and graduate of Frostburg State University with a master’s in business administration. She believes in small business and the power that it holds in America’s economy, especially having a passion for helping small businesses succeed within the tri-state region.
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