USCIS Revises the I-9 Handbook for Employers

by Blake Forrester January 26, 2011

In order to assist employers in completing the Form I-9, required for each new hire, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service released a revised version of its I-9 instruction manual on January 11, 2011.

Completion and retention of Form I-9 is done in compliance with U.S. immigration laws that seek to restrict illegal immigration while preserving legal immigration. The law requires hiring of only those with a status allowing the person to work in the United States. Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9, verifying both identity and authorization to work in the U.S., for each employee they hired after November 6, 1986. The law also protects potential employees from discrimination on the basis of national origin and citizenship.

The manual seeks to clarify every aspect of Form I-9 completion and retention in an extensive question and answer section. Numerous questions about verification of status, required documents, completing the form and issues concerning avoiding discrimination are covered. Additionally, the question and answer section covers employees hired before November 6, 1986, the proper use of different versions of Form I-9 and the use of military IDs.

Instructions on retention of the Form I-9 now include using a PDF formatted Form I-9 for both completion and retention. Forms may be generated, completed and retained in electronic format with the conditions that the employee receives instructions for completing Section One of the form, and the employer maintains documentation of how the form was created and retained. Forms that originated as paper forms may also be uploaded and retained in electronic format.

The timeline for completing and retaining Form I-9 is clarified. The form is not begun until after the employee has been offered and accepted a position. Section One must be completed by the employee before working for compensation begins, and Section Two, verifying documentation, must be completed within three business days of starting work.

A discussion of the role of the new E-Verify system and its function in confirming employment authorization is included along with Form I-9 requirements for subcontractors, staffing firms and professional employer organizations. Staffing firms are considered the employers and must complete and retain Form I-9. The client the employee is placed with is not required to complete Form I-9. The same is true for subcontractors and their employees. The firm using the subcontractor is not required to complete Form I-9.

Form I-9 and the updated Handbook for Employers can be obtained in PDF format from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website at www.uscis.gov or directly by visiting the following URL: http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf.

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