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EMPLOYER SANCTIONS AND EMPLOYMENT DOCUMENTATION
(PREPARATION OF I-9 FORM)
In 1986, the immigration and Control Act made employers liable for the
knowing employment of aliens not authorized to work in the U.S. by the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS). Employers are required to maintain I-9 Forms showing that
all employees are authorized to work in the U.S. including U.S. citizens. Many common
errors are committed by employers completing the I-9 Form. Violations of these employer
sanctions laws expose all employers to substantial civil penalties. This complex area of
the law demands careful attention by all employers. Although the law underwent minor modification in 1996, employers should
be as careful as ever in assuring the Form I-9 is meticulously filled in.
What are Employer Sanctions?
The basics of the law are:
- Employers may only hire or continue to employ aliens who are authorized to work in the
- Employers must verify the identity and employment of every employee hired after November
6, 1986 by use of INS I-9 Form. This paperwork must be retained for three years of
employment or one year after termination, whichever is later.
- I-9s must be made available for inspection by the INS upon three days written demand
notice by INS. Employers have the right to a hearing before an Administrative Law judge in
the event of violations.
- Fines for violations range from $100 to $10,000. Criminal penalties can apply for a
pattern or practice of hiring unauthorized aliens.
- Employers may not discriminate against employees based upon citizenship, lawful
permanent resident status, and national origin.
Employer Verification Requirement: The I-9 Form
- All employees hired after November 6, 1986 are required to have an I09 Employment
Eligibility Verification Form on file with the employer. The employee must present
document(s) establishing identity and authorization to work in the U.S. The employer must
examine the record information, concerning the documents, and accurately record
identification numbers and expiration dates.
- The employees Section 1 of the I-9 Form must be completed at the time employment
begins or before. Employers Section 2 must be completed before employment begins or
within three business days of the date the employee starts working. The employer and
employee must sign the form.
- Standard procedures at the time of hire are recommended. Systems to re-check documents
with expiration dates should be set-up.
- An employer may not require an employee to produce a particular document like a
permanent residence document (green card). There is a broad choice of acceptable documents
for both identity and work authorization. To require a particular document is a
Exceptions to the Verification Requirements
- Employees hired on or before November 6, 1986 are not required to fill out an I-9
- Certain changes in employment do not trigger the I-9
- Temporary leave with or without pay.
- Temporary lay-offs.
- Strike or labor dispute.
- Transfers from one place of employment to another.
- Continued employment with a related, reorganized successor
- Independent contractors who carry on independent business or who are paid by piecework
or assignment completed off site.
- Casual employees who provide domestic service in a private home on a sporadic, irregular
or incidental basis (however, once a week employment requires an
- Self-employed people as they are not considered employees of an
Common Errors Committed in Preparing I-9 Forms
- Make sure that every item in Section 1, Employee Information and Verification, is
completed by the employee. Make sure that the employee has signed the form in the box
provided for the signature and dated it. The employee must check one of the three boxes to
show status in the United States.
- The most common acceptable documentation used to complete List B is a drivers
license. Be sure to specify the state in the United States from which the drivers
license was issued. It is acceptable to use an expired drivers license.
- Do not omit the date upon which a document expires.
- The employers representative who viewed the original documents must sign Section
2, Employer Review and Verification, and print or type his or her name. Do not sign unless
you have personally viewed all the documents.
- Do not omit the name and address of the business in the employers certification
block. A fine will be levied each time this information is omitted.