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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New I-9 Handbook for Employers Released

By: Tommy Eden, Attorney

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released The Handbook for Employers (Revised 01/05/2011), also known as the M-274

The Handbook for Employers helps employers better understand the Form I-9 process. It was published in cooperation with our Department of Homeland Security.

By law, U.S. employers must verify the identity and employment authorization for every worker they hire after Nov. 6, 1986, regardless of the employee's immigration status. To comply with the law, employers must complete Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The Handbook for Employers is a guide for employers in the Form I-9 process. It has been revised and updated with new information about applicable regulations, including new regulations about electronic storage and retention of Forms I-9; it clarifies how to process an employee with a complicated immigration status; and, it addresses public comments and frequently asked questions. The Handbook was last revised 7/31/2009.

Some of the many improvements, new sections, and tools included in the Handbook for Employers are:

  • New visual aids for completing Form I-9;
  • Examples of new relevant USCIS documents;
  • Expanded guidance on lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, individuals in Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and exchange visitors and foreign students;
  • Expanded guidance on the processing of employees in or porting to H1-B status and H2-A status; and
  • Expanded guidance on extensions of stay for employees with temporary employment authorization.

    The Handbook for Employers now also includes information for employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who must verify their employees' employment authorization on Form I-9 CNMI. It also highlights information about documents CNMI employers may accept from their employees.

Common Sense Counsel: I-9 Best Employment Practices:

1. Use the DHS employment eligibility verification program E-Verify to verify the employment eligibility of all new hires;

2. Establish an internal training program on the hiring process, with annual updates (i.e., on how to manage completion of Form I-9 [Employment Eligibility Verification Form]), and on how to detect the fraudulent use of documents in the I-9 process;

3. Permit the I-9 and E-Verify process to be conducted only by individuals who have received this training, and include a secondary review as part of each employee’s verification, to minimize the potential for a single individual to subvert the process;

4. Arrange for annual I-9 audits by an external auditing firm or a trained employee not otherwise involved in the I-9 process;

5. Ensure and document the definitive resolution of no-match letters received from the Social Security Administration (SSA), per SSA and Department of Homeland Security guidance;

6. Establish a tip line mechanism (inbox, e-mail, etc.) for employees to report activity relating to the employment of unauthorized aliens, and a protocol for responding to employee tips;

7. Establish and maintain appropriate policies, practices and safeguards against use of the verification process for unlawful discrimination, and to ensure that U.S. citizens and authorized workers do not face discrimination with respect to hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee because of citizenship status or national origin.

Tommy Eden is an attorney with Capell & Howard, P.C. and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, and presented throughout the State of Alabama on Immigration Workplace Compliance and also to the Governor’s Commission in 2008. He can be contacted at or 334-241-8030.