President Trump’s budget proposal calls for hiring as many as 10,000 new immigration and border patrol agents. Not all of those new agents will be deployed at the border. A substantial number will assume interior enforcement duties. This will undoubtedly result in more I-9 inspections in the near future. Some estimate that the number of worksite inspections will triple within a year or two. This suggests that concrete contractors need to be especially diligent about I-9 compliance in their hiring process.
I-9 compliance penalties have also increased. Now, the failure to complete the form properly can cost you $216 to $2156. Given the administrations pro-enforcement stance, it is likely that even simple I-9 errors will cost employers significant sums of money. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not believe that a fine of $216 operates as a significant inducement to comply with the law, so they tend to impose higher penalties.
And there is a new I-9 form . . . again. The current version of the form took effect (and was required) on January 22, 2017. The Department of Homeland Security has now issued a new version of the form and all US employers must be using the new version of Form I-9 effective September 18. Although in its simplest format, the form is relatively unchanged, contractors can and should download the form from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services web page and use the new form on a computer. Use this link: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9
There are several reasons why this will work to your advantage. First, the updated form will help ensure that you complete the form correctly and avoid common errors. This is so because the form incorporates “built-in” help when you use the computer version. For example, for nearly every blank on the form there is an online help feature accessible through the question mark next to the field title. In addition, if you scroll over a field after a few seconds a help box appears giving advice about what information goes in that field and, more important, how to format that information. Also, using the computer version of the form gives you instantaneous access to the complete 15 pages of instructions, which gives even more detail about how to properly complete the form.
The updated version of the form also does some of the work for you. For example, when the employee is completing Section 1 of the form and selects an immigration status, that status automatically is carried forward in Section 2 of the form. There, your choice of documents will automatically be chosen. For example, if an employee checks that he or she is a lawful permanent resident in Section 1, you will not be given a US passport as a document choice in List A of Section 2. Similarly, when completing Section 2 for a US citizen, you should not see a choice for Employment Authorization Document.
The online version of the form also has some error checking built-in. If a date is entered in the incorrect format, you will be alerted and given help regarding the formatting issue. Selecting from the document lists ensures that you do not accept or try to record documents that are not permissible. An overarching error checking system exists in the form of a “click to finish” button at the end of each section of the form. Clicking this button results in a powerful review of the entire content of that section, followed by a field-by-field correction process. When you have corrected the form, you are encouraged to print it out for signature and storage.
The new form also has a new area in Section 2 for additional information relevant to the I-9 process. For example, you can use this area to record termination dates and form retention dates. Also, more than one Preparer/Translator can assist the employee. There is a separate supplement that can be used for this purpose and you can use it multiple times, so in theory any number of persons can assist the employee in completing Section 1 of the form.
You can still use the “paper” version of the form. You can download that from the same website and photocopy it as necessary. It is hard to ignore all the good help that comes built-in to the new version, though. Try it and see. You can always go back to the “paper” version. But please note the new deadline for using the updated version of the form.