Late in June, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill. President Obama has urged the House of Representatives to pass the bill quickly. What will happen? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.
But one thing is certain…immigration reform measures are already taking place. And they are impacting employees, businesses and human resources. The most recent changes are to the Form I-9 (PDF). This is the document everyone completes on their first day of employment. It does two things:
Establishes identity – You are who you say you are.
Confirms work status – You’re eligible to work in the United States.
During the SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago, several hundred people got up at zero dark forty to hear Dave Fowler, vice president of product strategy for Equifax Workforce Solutions, talk about the recent changes to the Form I-9. Dave graciously sat with me for a chat after his presentation.
Dave, let’s start at the beginning. What’s the purpose of the Form I-9?
[Dave] In 1986, the federal government decided to address the issue of illegal immigration. Roughly 3 million illegal immigrants were allowed to remain in the country and employers were required to verify a new hire’s authorization to work in the United States by completing and retaining Form I-9. All employees hired after November 6, 1986 are required to complete Form I-9 to verify their identities and eligibility to work legally in the United States.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently announced some changes to the Form I-9. What are the new requirements?
[Dave] Over the years there have been a variety of changes to Form I-9. The primary changes with this version include:
- Longer form (9 pages from 5 pages)
- Expanded instructions (more helpful)
- Two-page Form I-9 (Section 1 on page 1, Sections 2 & 3 on page 2)
- Renamed and mandatory fields (maiden name now Other Names Used, must enter N/A if none)
- Optional employee fields for e-mail address and telephone number
- Expanded information for an alien employee
- Space for a 3-D barcode
- Updates to employee document fields
It’s important for employers to understand these changes, since errors – even when unintentional – can result in costly fines as agencies continue to increase audits and scrutiny. For a more complete explanation of the changes, I invite you to view a recent webinar I co-presented with Form I-9 specialist and Jackson Lewis attorney, Amy Peck.
Do I need to get new Forms I-9 for my current employees?
[Dave] No. New Forms I-9 should not be completed for current employees.
If I’m an employer using E-Verify®, is there anything special I need to be concerned with?
[Dave] Yes. An employer may need to enter additional information when creating an E-Verify case. This will primarily be for alien employees, but E-Verify will prompt the employer to enter the information. Perhaps the biggest change will be for an alien with a Form I-94 Admission Number. In this case, the employer will be required to enter the employee’s foreign passport number and the country of issuance. However, there are some exceptions to be aware of depending on who gave the employee their Form I-94. In addition, as of July 1, 2013, E-Verify requires that the employer submit the employee’s e-mail address if the employee entered it in Section 1 of Form I-9.
What prompted these changes?
[Dave] These changes are a culmination of several factors such as:
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP) switching over to an electronic Form I-94 process,
- Improving and expanding the Form I-9 instructions,
- Clarifying field names on Form I-9, and
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seeking to notify an employee via e-mail when E-Verify returns a tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) response indicating a data mismatch. DHS has no plans to use the employee’s telephone number, but the employer may use it to contact the employee.
Typically, the Form I-9 is completed with new hire paperwork. Do employers need to change their onboarding processes to accommodate the changes?
[Dave] Yes. The revised Form I-9 must be completed for every employee hired as of May 7, 2013. Clarifying language regarding when each section must be completed has been added to the new form, and it’s important that employers are informed on what’s required for the new form so that they can mitigate risk and avoid potential fines that ultimately impact their bottom line.
Automating with an electronic process also helps achieve compliance because service providers will ensure that new processes reflect the new requirements. I-9 management services can also help employers meet requirements and cut costs when onboarding their remote workforces, where it might not be possible to train disparate hiring managers and flying new employees in to headquarters will be expensive. A new policy being verbalized by certain DHS agencies is that employers should not pre-populate any employee information in Section 1 of Form I-9, but that the employee must enter all information in Section 1. Employers should discuss this with counsel and determine how to proceed.
Many thanks to Dave for sharing his expertise on the subject. Equifax Workforce Solutions, a business unit of Equifax (the credit monitoring company), provides a range of HR compliance solutions, including an electronic Form I-9 that integrates with the federal E-Verify program to help employers stay compliant with federal immigration laws and regulations. If you’re looking for more information, check out the Equifax Workforce Solutions blog or follow them on Twitter.