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Employment Eligibility: I-9

What is the I-9 verification process?

With the implementation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986, businesses in the United States are no longer able to hire unauthorized workers. Unauthorized workers include individuals who have entered into the United States illegally, and all businesses are required to prove the identity and work authorization of their employees by completing an I-9 Form. This form was essentially created to prove that each new employee hired after November 6, 1986 is authorized to work in the United States.

In order to comply with the standards of the IRCA, the Form I-9 must be fully completed within three days of a new employee's start date. Certain sections, such as Section 1, must be completed no later than the time of hire and the employer is responsible for ensuring that this takes place. Legally speaking, the term "employer" refers to anyone who has employees and includes recruiters and referrers who are agricultural associations or employers or farm labor contractors.

Section 2 of the I-9 Form must be completed by the third day of employment, and this form includes evidence that proves the legal identity of the employee:

  • Document title;
  • Issuing authority;
  • Document number;
  • Expiration date, if any; and
  • The date employment begins.

    The government will not accept a receipt that shows an employee has applied for an initial grant of employment authorization or for renewal of employment authorization. The employee must provide valid receipts within three days of the time when their employment begins, or the business could face legal penalties.

    Employers are also not allowed to forego filling out an I-9 Form for employees that they have hired for less than three days. When these unique circumstances occur, employers must have the form filled out and completed by the time when the employment begins.

    I-9 Document Fraud

    Ultimately, the responsibility for completing the Form I-9 falls on the shoulders of the employer. This can be an incredibly complex process, and many employers and HR departments have a difficult time distinguishing fraudulent documents from authentic ones. Here at Maney | Gordon | Zeller, P.A., we have helped many employers and clients who have had issues with the I-9 verification process. Many employers feel like they must be "document experts" in order to abide by legal guidelines, and Attorney Christian Zeller speaks to this matter;

    You do not have to be a document expert, but rather you must act in good faith because good-faith compliance remains the best statutory affirmative defense against a "knowingly hired" charge.

    Our legal team helps clients demonstrate good faith when they check employee documents by providing them with a copy of the M-274 Handbook. This handbook specifically states that if documents appear to be genuine and relate to the employee who is presenting them, then the employer must accept the documents. If you suspect, however, that the documents are potentially fraudulent, then you should respond by implementing a document inspection strategy that makes sense for your specific organization.

    Contact a skilled Tampa immigration lawyer at our firm to learn more.

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