By: Melissa Nolan
Every business employing even one employee must complete an I-9 employment verification form for each employee (even the owner, if the owner is an employee) to confirm that the employee is eligible to work in the U.S., no matter whether the employee is a U.S. citizen or not. Failing to complete this one-page document is a violation of federal law that can lead to substantial fines for the company, its officials, and the company representative charged with I-9 compliance. Even if no illegal workers are found, the mere failure to properly complete the form can lead to serious legal problems.
Workers have the option of presenting three types of documents to show the worker is allowed to work in the U.S. The instructions for the form include three lists of documents and the worker must select either a document from List A or else one from List B and one from List C. The employer cannot tell the employee which documents to provide; it is strictly up to the worker. Employers violating this freedom of choice are subject to fines. While U.S. citizens typically present the same kinds of documents, which makes reviewing them a relatively simple matter, the documents produced by non-U.S. citizens may come in a variety of forms. This variety requires the employer to have a strong familiarity with immigration laws and the different types of immigration statuses the worker might have.
Bottom line: take your obligation to complete this short form very seriously. Following a sound I-9 policy with all hires will minimize liability and protect the company and its ownership. An experienced immigration attorney can help you avoid the I-9 compliance pitfalls.