I-9 Central: The Latest on I-9 Compliance
Employers across the country are encountering problems with successful completion of the I-9 Form, a one-page form required to verify employment eligibility of workers in the United States. Despite internal audits and I-9 training, employers continue to identify errors on their I-9 Forms. Each I-9 error is treated as a separate violation resulting in a hefty fine. Further, criminal prosecution of employers has increased significantly in recent months for those who fail to complete the I-9 Form adequately and who knowingly hire illegal workers.
In an effort to respond to concerns of the business community - and employers complaining of excessive penalties - United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") is launching a new website to assist employers with the completion of I-9 Forms. The website, named "I-9 Central," is intended to serve as a resource and provide guidance to employers with respect to technical errors, procedural errors and substantive violations identified during I-9 audits. The website is expected to be up and running by Spring 2011.
In addition, USCIS is researching the possibility of streamlining the I-9 Form available online by adding drop-down boxes with limited choices as well as other helpful features. The goal is to simplify the I-9 Form in an effort to minimize paperwork violations and technical errors.
Overview of the I-9 Process
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 ("IRCA") requires employers to complete an I-9 Form for each employee hired after November 6, 1986. Many companies have I-9 Forms on file that were completed by previous human resources managers and other personnel with varying degrees of training and competence on I-9 compliance. Further, I-9 compliance is constantly evolving as USCIS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") continue to stress I-9 audits and paperwork violations.
Accordingly, employers should continue to implement internal audits by reviewing their I-9 files, verifying employment eligibility of all current employees and curing any paperwork violations or technical errors that are discovered on the I-9 Forms. In doing so, employers establish a good faith defense in the event unauthorized workers or errors are discovered. A good faith defense can potentially reduce an employer's exposure to significant penalties.
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