As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues a new version of its Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, employers have the opportunity to revisit and examine their compliance practices. Starting on May 1, employers will be required to use this new form, or face significant penalties. While the printed version looks the same, the most visible changes appear in the electronic version online – an important distinction as workplaces go paperless. Because government I-9 audits have risen sharply in recent years, we advise our clients to keep I-9 compliance on their radar. Our immigration team offers the top 10 (plus a bonus!) best practices for how to stay compliant with I-9:

  1. Complete I-9 for all employees, including U.S. citizens, and keep them on file for all current employees
  2. Have your employee complete Section 1 on his or her first day
  3. Do not request more documentation than is required to show identity and employment authorization, or ask for a particular document to show identity or employment eligibility
  4. You may complete I-9 early, but not before offer and acceptance
  5. Promptly re-verify employment authorization 90 days prior to expiration
  6. After employment ends, keep I-9s for at least three years from the date of employment or for one year after the employment ends, whichever is later
  7. Conduct regular self-audits of I-9 files to find discrepancies or errors
  8. Promptly destroy records that are not required to be maintained
  9. Keep I-9 records separate from personnel files. This limits undue access by the government agencies with authority to inspect your I-9s
  10. Keep copies of the documents presented by the employee with the I-9 form
  11. Avoid “citizen-only” or “permanent resident-only” hiring policies unless required by law, regulation or government contract

Harris Beach has prepared summaries of document retention in the immigration context and I-9 compliance for your reference.

Remember: I-9s can be retained in paper, microfilm, microfiche or electronic formats. You may keep completed paper forms on-site or off-site, as long as you are able to produce the I-9 forms within three days of an inspection request. Harris Beach immigration attorneys perform I-9 and other audits of required employment records, advise on document retention and correction requirements, and offer training on completion and maintenance of I-9 records.

For more insight into legal support for your immigration compliance, visit our Immigration practice page.

Our Immigration Law Practice Group includes immigration attorneys that work across New York state in our Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse offices. Our immigration lawyers focus on strategies – including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals – to ensure that employers are able to hire, transfer, and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.