Employment: USCIS Updates 1-9 Handbook for Employers

02.01.11

Recently, On January 5, 2011, United States Citizenship and Immigration Control released a new version of the I-9 Handbook for employers. Some of the new tools for employers include expanded guidance on lawful permanent residents and foreign students, examples of new USCIS documents; expanded guidance on extensions of stay for employees with temporary employment authorization, expanded guidance on processing employees in or porting to H1-B or H2-A status, and additional guidance on copying or electronically storing I-9s.

In regard to Lawful Permanent Residents, the manual now explains that the Permanent Resident Card may have no expiration date or it may have an expiration date of two or ten years after it was issued. However, regardless of any expiration date that may appear on a Permanent Resident Card, employers are never required to re-verify when a Permanent Resident Card expires. The manual also explains how employers should handle various situations where an employee presents a Permanent Resident Card that has already expired before the verification or a presents a temporary I-551 stamp in their passport (indicating temporary status as a permanent resident.

The manual also clarifies that employers should not re-verify the following documents after they expire: U.S. passports or list B documents that expire (such as a driver's license). This is different from Employment Authorization Cards, which require employers to re-verify the employee's work authorization after the card expires. The manual now contains an image explaining the information that appears on an Employment Authorization Card.

New sections of the manual explain in detail how employers should handle I-9s for Exchange Visitors with J-1 status and Foreign Students with F-1 and M-1 status. The manual discusses the different employment authorizations forms for employees on J-1, F-1 and M-1 status, how to verify their documents on the I-9, and who to contact in regard to questions about work authorization. For J-1 visitors, this contact is the responsible officer listed on the employee's Form DS-2019. For F-1 and M-1 students who do not have Employment Authorization Documents, this is the Designated School Official listed on the employee's Form I-20.

Finally, the manual includes new clarification on how to meet I-9 requirements for employees on H-1B, H-12A, or other temporary visa status when the employee's status is expiring or who is changing employers. Although some employees may be able to continue to work while an extension of status petition is pending, it is important to confirm this each time the situation arises, and there are specific requirements for documenting the issue on the I-9.

Although the I-9 form may appear simple on its face, there are a variety of situations that may arise and require specific, detailed procedures. Employers should take care to ensure compliance with all of the I-9 requirements, especially in light of the government's new focus on I-9 audits as a tool for enforcing immigration law. The I-9 Manual for Employers is an essential tool for all human resource departments. Individuals who complete I-9s should be very familiar with the manual. However, if the manual does not clearly answer a question, employers should contact legal counsel for advice.

You can download the new manual by clicking here.

NOTE: On January 20, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the creation of an Employment Compliance Inspection Center, adding 15 auditors devoted to assisting the field offices expedite Form I-9 audits. According to ICE, it conducted 3,769 Form I-9 audits in 2009-10 and will be increasing those numbers.

By Hilary Velandia, hvelandia@dsda.com

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