Immigration law can be confusing for companies to successfully navigate. Fortunately, even though federal law says Form I-9 compliance is a must, looking over your shoulder is optional if you can have confidence in your process. Those concerned with their company’s I-9 compliance should consider adding digital I-9 compliance software to their process for added peace of mind.
The Form I-9 and Why It Has to Be Completed
The Form I-9 was established by the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This federal mandate requires employers to complete this form for employees at the time of hire to both verify their identity and eligibility to work in the U.S.
Since completing the Form I-9 is federal law, failing to do so is considered a violation of that statute. If your company is audited and is found to be missing I-9 Forms or have incomplete forms, you will be in violation of the law and could face a range of punitive consequences for each individual offense.
Completing the Form I-9 for new hires is not a suggestion, it is the law.
How the Form I-9 Is Set Up
The Form I-9 itself can look fairly simple, with three main sections to be completed, but don’t let that deceive you because the details matter. The form identifies specific guidelines and deadlines which must be observed for it to be valid.
There are three key sections of the Form I-9:
- Section One: This first section is designed primarily to gather personal information about an employee and should be completed by the employee by their first day of employment. In addition to providing accurate information, employees must also sign the document vouching for its validity. The employer’s responsibility for this section is to see that the employee has completed it properly and completely.
- Section Two: The middle section of the form is a little more complicated due to the deadline of having it completed within three days of an employee’s first day on the job. This section has an employee provide their employer with Form I-9 approved identification documents. At this point, employers must examine each of these documents in good faith for authenticity, which can in turn affect the employee’s work eligibility.
- Section Three: This last section is in large part the employer’s responsibility in the event that an employee’s work authorization expires, an employee changes their name, or an employee is rehired within three years of the date on their original Form I-9.
Common Form I-9 Mistakes
Filling out a Form I-9 is typically not a simple matter for employers who are not well trained in the proper procedure. Not only can it complicate things substantially, but it can also yield common mistakes such as the below which may result in serious consequences for the company:
- Incomplete information. An employer who is rushed or inexperienced in completing a form may not remember to check for blank fields or missing signatures.
- Inaccurate data. It is critical for the Form I-9 to be completed accurately. Even a small typo or transposed number can have a big effect on the validity of a Form I-9.
- Identification document problems. While an employee is required to provide approved identification documents, an employer is tasked with being diligent in collecting those documents and reviewing them in good faith within the deadline window.
- Missed deadlines. Each section of the Form I-9 comes with specific deadlines that must be adhered to in order to be considered compliant. This requires employers to stay on top of the situation at all times.
- Management of forms. There are even Form I-9 rules regarding the accessibility and retention. The forms must be readily accessible when needed in the case of an audit. Employers must also follow rules regarding how long a form should be retained and when it should be destroyed. The misplacement of forms is also a common and costly mistake.
It is estimated that more than half of Form I-9s filled out each year contain errors such as these. While these mistakes are among the most commonly made by employers, make no mistake that each has the capability to negatively impact a company’s compliance and potentially result in punitive measures.
The Perks of Using Digital Compliance Software for A Form I-9
No company wants to be on the receiving end of hefty Form I-9 violations. Not only can it cause headaches for a company’s financials and workforce, if picked up by the media it may make them a household name with a negative connotation that can essentially damage or ruin their reputation. To help avoid situations like these, digital I-9 compliance software is recommended.
Some of the perks of using digital compliance software for the Form I-9 can include:
- Creating a digital, paperless solution. Making the process digital cuts down on the filing and management of thousands of pieces of paper.
- Facilitating on-boarding. The program should provide a printable checklist for both employees and employers so that they know exactly what information will be required and be able to keep track of each step’s completion.
- Creating efficiency. Digital software is designed to make the Form I-9 process more efficient by alerting users to blank fields, upcoming expirations or deadlines, and even streamlining the interaction between the Form I-9 and the federal E-Verify program.
- Reducing errors and increasing compliance. The software should be able to calculate some possible instances of human error before a form is submitted to reduce errors that could have ended up being costly violations.
- Assisting with document archiving. The program provides employers with reminders regarding which documents must be retained and which must be destroyed.
- Facilitating reporting and audits. Digital compliance software can help facilitate and streamline reporting for audits, locating audit trails, and printing of I-9 records.
I-9 compliance is a must, but companies utilizing digital Form I-9 software can rest easy and know that looking over their shoulder is only optional.