March 20 update: Due to precautions being implemented by employers and employees related to physical proximity associated with COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced flexibility in requirements related to Form I-9 compliance. The policy only applies to fully remote workforces. (Source)
Additionally, E-Verify is extending the timeframe to take action to resolve Social Security Administration (SSA) Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs) due to SSA office closures to the public.
E-Verify is also extending the timeframe to take action to resolve Department of Homeland Security TNCs in limited circumstances when an employee cannot resolve a TNC due to public or private office closures.
Note that employers must notify employees about their TNC result as soon as possible.
Revised Form I-9 Available
On January 31, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Although employers are instructed to begin using the updated form immediately, employers have until April 30, 2020 to switch to the revised Form I-9.
What revisions were made to Form I-9?
The latest revisions to Form I-9 are relatively modest but important for employers to know. Among those changes, the USCIS updated the Country of Issuance and Issuing Authority field for Foreign passports to reflect name changes of two countries (Eswatini and Macedonia, North).
The Form I-9 instructions were also revised to update website addresses and privacy notices as well as to add clarification on:
- Who can act as an authorized representative on behalf of an employer
- What are acceptable documents for Form I-9
- Updated process for requesting paper Form I-9
Visit the USCIS website for a detailed list of all revisions made to Form I-9.
Prepare for new Form I-9 to avoid penalties
Employers can continue to use Form I-9 with the revision date 07/17/17 N until April 30, 2020. Starting May 1, 2020, employers must use the 10/21/19 version.
Employers do not need to complete the new Form I-9 for current employees who already have a completed one on file, unless reverification applies. Doing so unnecessarily may violate federal law.
In the meantime, employers can review processes, revise internal documents, and train their staff on the changes.
Failing to comply with Form I-9 employment verification requirements may result in hefty penalties, including:
- Civil fines
- Criminal penalties (when there is a pattern or practice of violations)
- Debarment from government contracts
- A court order requiring the payment of back pay to the individual discriminated against
- A court order requiring the employer to hire the individual discriminated against
Read more about Form I-9 penalties.
Key points about Form I-9
Form I-9, which is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all U.S. employees, must be completed for each new employee hired after November 6, 1986.
A comprehensive overview of Form I-9 can be found at the USCIS’s I-9 Central, but here are some key points for all employers to know:
- It is illegal for employers to discriminate against work-authorized individuals.
- Employers cannot specify which document(s) the employee may present to establish employment authorization and identity.
- Employers must retain a Form I-9 for terminated employees for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date of termination, whichever is longer.
Employers should refer to the updated USCIS Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274), which includes the above revisions.
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