E-Verify (formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program) is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. E-Verify is free and voluntary and is the best means available for determining employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security Numbers. The E-Verify program will be launching new and exciting changes later next month, such as photo screening features and online resources for employees.
New Form I-9 is Latest in DHS Immigration Enforcement Strategy
The Department of Homeland Security has announced and published a new, long-awaited version of the I-9 form used to confirm the identity and work authorization of every new hire since 1986. The new form puts into practice the reduction of the number of documents that had been technically required since 1996. Employers should start using the new I-9 form as quickly as possible, and no later than December 7. DHS will publish a Federal Register notice imminently giving employers 30 days from then to begin using the form.
The changes in the new forms are as follows:
Five documents have been removed from List A of the List of Acceptable Documents:
Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561)
Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570)
Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-151)
Unexpired Reentry Permit (Form I-327)
Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571)
One document was added to List A of the List of Acceptable Documents:
Unexpired Employment Authorization Document (I-766)
All the Employment Authorization Documents with photographs in circulation are now included as one item on List A:
I-688, I-688A, I-688B, I-766
Instructions regarding Section 1 of Form I-9 now indicate that the employee is not obliged to provide the Social Security Number in Section 1 of Form I-9, unless he or she is employed by an employer who participates in E-Verify. (Of course, other laws may require collection of the Social Security number in the hiring process.) The instructions section on photocopying and retaining Form I-9 now includes information about electronically signing and retaining I-9 forms.
I-9’s format, font, organization and grammar have changed slightly, but the manner in which the form is completed has not changed. Previously completed I-9 forms should not be re-done with the new form. If, however, an employer needs to re-verify an existing employee whose I-9 was completed on the old version and whose work authorizing document has now expired, the new version of Form I-9 must be used, thus completing a new form altogether, rather than using the bottom portion of the old version. DHS has also published a new Handbook for Employers, Form M-274, which had not been updated since 1991. The new handbook contains clearer explanations of employers’ obligations and updated examples of acceptable documents. Unfortunately, the handbook fails to show all the different variations of the shown document types that can be valid, fails to explain sufficiently that other versions might be valid, fails to depict several types of acceptable documents at all, and depicts some types of documents incorrectly. Thus, employers continue to lack clear governmental guidance in their role as involuntary document reviewers. DHS had been planning to re-vamp the Form I-9 more completely through a comprehensive rule making and delayed the effort in part from anticipation of comprehensive legislation that might have required even more changes. DHS has decided to publish the just-announced version with only the above changes as part of its publicized effort to pursue all available measures to enforce existing immigration laws in the employment context. DHS recently published a regulation that announced an intention to hold employers accountable for “constructive knowledge” of their employment of unauthorized aliens, including admissions from alien workers themselves, requests by workers for immigration sponsorship, no-match letters from the Social Security Administration and notifications from DHS. DHS and SSA announced that this Fall’s round of no-match letters would contain also a letter from DHS warning the employer not to ignore the no-match finding. The regulation and the DHS letter set forth specific steps for an employer to take in response to the SSA no-match letter that would provide a safe harbor for the employer from DHS administrative sanctions.
A federal court has since enjoined the regulation and the DHS insert for no-match letters, but DHS is expected to take an aggressive stand concerning constructive knowledge in prosecutions of employers and their managers that are ongoing all over the United States. Meanwhile, numerous states have enacted laws that require employers in different situations to participate in otherwise voluntary federal verification programs and certify their avoidance of unauthorized workers under penalty of lost state contracts, lost business licenses and other lawsuits and enforcement actions. The pattern of regulation concerning immigration compliance has become increasingly complex with high stakes.