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The Importance of an I-9

What is an I-9?

An I-9 is a form issued by the federal government that employers are supposed to use to verify that their employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. According to the federal government, employment in the United States can often be a magnet for illegal immigration so we have be to sure to remove the incident for people to come her illegally so one way to do that is to put the burden on employers to verify the employment status of their employees.

Who is Legally Allowed to Work in the United States?

Employees that are eligible to work legally in the United States can be categorized into 4 categories:

  1. US Citizens
  2. Non Citizens- but Nationals of United States
  3. Immigrants with Work Authorization
  4. Legal Permanent Residents
How Does the I-9 Process Work?

Each employee that you hire should fill out an I-9 within 3 days of employment. The form itself provides a list of different categories of documentation that you may accept as identification to establish employment authorization, and a list of documents in each category that are acceptable, as well as a list of how many in what combinations you need. There is a 69 page handbook that can also be found online that you may use should you need more information. You, as the employer may not choose what documents the employee presents for authorization , the employee must choose. If the employee does not provide adequate documents or satisfy the requirements of form, you may give examples of ones that would meet the requirements, but you can not instruct them which ones they have to present to you.

Once your employees provide you with the documentation and meets the requirements, they are authorized to be employed and you may continue with their employment. It is important to keep the I-9 on file, and accessible at all times, should an enforcement action or audit occur by the Department of Labor, or ICE or Immigration.

Although there are four categories of people who have the right to work in the United State, you cannot show preference for one category over another. For instance choosing to hire people who are US citizens, while discriminating against the legal permanent residents, simply because they're not citizens is he legal. In fact at the very top of the I-9 form, you'll notice a non-discrimination paragraph to remind you of that obligation. It is imperative, to make sure all your managers and staff who are part of the hiring process, including the Human Resources (HR) department, are well-versed on I-9 applications.

What kind of Records Should I be Keeping?

It's also important that you establish a good record keeping system for the I-9s, that allow you to internally audit them at least once a year. The internal audit is necessary to help you keep up with employees who have presented documentation that will soon expire so that you may provide them with an opportunity to renew before those expiration dates have occurred, and so that you are not left on the hook for employees with expired documentation in an enforcement action or raid.

At Guest and Gray, we have seasoned immigration and business law attorneys who can help you and your employees manage I-9 compliance. Our lawyers have many years of experience dealing with these exact situations, and they can train your HR department (or if you're smaller business, your managerial staff, or even yourself) to ensure that you always meet all your obligations under the law, and are prepared for an audit any time. Please give us a call, here at Guest & Gray in Forney, Texas, so we can help you, protect your company from liability.

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