What’s a Form I-9? Pursuant to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) devised Form I-9. An employer must fill out Form I-9 to verify the employment eligibility of any individual proposed to be hired. The form itself is a short, one-page document. Its length is inversely proportional to the potential liability it creates if an employer does not fill out the form in accordance with the law. Penalties for non-compliance include both civil monetary fines as well as more serious criminal penalties including incarceration for up to six months. INA § 247A(e)(4),(f). The INS office with jurisdiction over the area of employment is responsible for enforcing the provisions of IRCA in that area and may enlist the assistance of the US Department of Labor, Federal Marshals, and local law enforcement to “raid” locations suspected of harboring or employing illegal aliens.
The form needs to be completed for all individuals hired on or after November 7, 1986. A Form I-9 need not be completed for certain classes of persons, including those hired prior to November 7, 1986. An individual is authorized to work if such individual is a citizen or national of the United States, is a lawful permanent resident, or is an alien otherwise authorized to work. An employer must insure that the prospective employee has the requisite documentation establishing identification and employment eligibility. INA § 247 A(b)(1)(B)-(D). Form I-9 lists over 26 types of acceptable identification.
The Form I-9 together with detailed instructions on filling- out the form are available from the INS. An employer may request the publication “Hand-Book for Employers”, Form M-274 from the INS. The hand-book contains instructions as well as a couple of copies of Form I-9.
It is expected that the INS is going to be reviewing the employer’s compliance with the provisions of IRCA with far more scrutiny than was previously exercised. This is due to the current perception that the immigration system has failed to curtail the number of illegal aliens within the United States.