The government places a lot of responsibilities on an employer’s plate, but the regulations around Form I-9 compliance is on the top of the list. This vital documentation verifies that employees have the right to work in the United States and demands a thorough inspection of specific identification within three days of employment beginning.
For many HR departments, this form is part of their daily routine, but this fact doesn’t make compliance any easier. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has promised increased enforcement on worksites around the nation, making the accuracy and maintaining of your I-9 processes critical. Unfortunately, many myths are surrounding the nature, purpose, and completion of this mandated paperwork. Consider some of these misconceptions below so that you don’t make a costly mistake that could result in audits for non-compliance, hefty fines, and more.
Employers completing an I-9 should pay careful attention to the DHS guidelines for completing this form to remain in compliance with federal law. Many common misconceptions about when and how to use this employment verification process lead to avoidable penalties, so here at Pre-employ, we decided to share these myths to help you better meet the rigorous standards of this form.
In a word, no. A common misconception about the three-day rule is that employees have that many days to fill out the form and turn in their identification for physical inspection. This is not the case, however. The allowed three days is only to give time for the new hire to provide their proof of ability to work in the United States; they still must have their section of the I-9 form filled out by the end of the first day of paid work.
Employers that try to simply backdate this form risk hefty penalties and potential charges of fraud if revealed by an audit.
No matter your company size or type of organization, I-9 compliance is non-negotiable. While penalties for violations vary according to the offense, simple mistakes like an employee not signing a form can run upwards of nearly $2,000 per instance. You can only imagine how much higher punitive fines may total if hire an employee who doesn’t have the required authorization to work in the U.S. Employers who show a consistent pattern of non-compliance can even face jail time.
While the form for 2020 may look the same as 2019, it’s always important to get the most recent revised version of the document. You can download it from the DHS website and check the stamped date in the bottom right corner of the page. There you can find a revision and expiration date.
In addition to this step, you should also read through any updates or changes to the guidelines. With the current virus outbreak, DHS recently adjusted the physical inspection requirements of employee documentation. This is a temporary change but has significantly altered current compliance protocols to accommodate the increased challenges of businesses converting their team members to remote workers.
Forever holding onto any I-9 ever filled out by one of your employees is one of the most infamous myths. If you have multiple files filled with alphabetized verification forms, rejoice! You only need to keep current employees stored for three years from the day you hired them. Even better, you can properly destroy those of former employees one year from their termination date. Just make sure you dispose of this paperwork on time and not earlier, or you violate I-9 guidelines which could earn costly fines.
There is a common misconception that the E-Verify program replaces the entire I-9 process, but in fact, it only electronically verifies if a new hire is eligible for employment. This program compares the records with the Social Security Administration with specific details on your employee’s completed I-9. You still have to meet all mandated I-9 compliance standards.
Stay prepared for the administration’s high priority on immigration enforcement by using this step-by-step guide on conducting I-9 internal audits.