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By law, employers must complete an I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification form for each new hire and keep the forms on file. Employers must retain the completed I-9 forms for three years after the date of hire and one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later.
Federal investigators do routine audits of companies throughout the country, checking the I-9 forms that are supposed to be filled out for each U.S. worker. To protect your company, here are some steps to take.
Know which documents you can ask for. Get a list of acceptable documents.
Let employees choose. Don't ask for particular documents or more documents than required. Employees or applicants can choose the proof they want to offer and companies have faced lawsuits for specifying certain documents. You are protected as long as the documents prove identity and work authorization and are listed on the back of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) I-9 Form. You will find an I-9 Form on our website under the "Client Forms" heading. You must fill out an I-9 for all hires-citizens and non-citizens. If you use companies that provide your firm with outside contractors, the responsibility can be shifted to them.
Accept documents that appear genuine. But you aren't responsible for confirming their authenticity. Don't inaccurately conclude that documents are false and routinely investigate authenticity. You aren't expected to be an immigration expert, but you should have sufficient knowledge to understand if a document is consistent with an employee's claimed status.
Avoid restrictive hiring practices. First, you need a policy that requires hiring qualified people with documentation, regardless whether they're citizens or permanent residents. For qualified applicants, don't consider the expiration date of work authorization or ask for an INS document to confirm the date. You can, however, require new hires or employees to periodically show proof of continuing eligibility.
Don't jump the gun. You can conduct the I-9 verification process before a new hire starts work, but never initiate it before a job offer is made and accepted. Not hiring someone after seeing documents that reveal citizenship status, age, and national origin could be grounds for a discrimination claim.
Employers must complete the I-9 verification process within three business days of an employee's first day on the job. The only exception occurs when new employees lack a required piece of documentation and show a receipt proving they have applied for replacement documents. In such cases, all documents must be presented and the I-9 form completed within 90 days of the first day of work.
If the documentation is not produced, the person cannot continue to work. Your company can suspend the employee without pay until the documents are obtained.
These legal requirements may seem difficult, but in the long run, you save legal hassles and financial penalties by complying.