If you're a small business owner, you probably already realize that one of the main factors for expanding your company is being able to attract and keep exceptional employees. But regardless of the number of high-quality workers you may have, your business is still at risk if it's not I-9 complaint.
The I-9 form is what businesses use to confirm that their new hires are legally allowed to work in the United States. Unfortunately, too many small business construction contractors don't understand the importance of being I-9 complaint, and as a result their businesses suffer. Because the Trump administration has placed even more attention on immigration issues and not employing undocumented workers, I-9 compliance is even more critical now.
Here are some basic guidelines for ensuring your business is I-9 compliant, along with a few considerations and warnings.
What Is the I-9 Form?
Maybe you're unfamiliar with Form I-9. This is the form used for confirming employee identification and authorization for workers hired in the United States. All American employers are required to have everyone they hire for employment complete this form.
The I-9 Is Not the Same as E-Verify
A common misconception is that the E-Verify form is the same as the Form I-9, but this is not true. These are actually two very different, although related, processes. While the Form I-9 is used to verify and identify employment authorization, E-Verify is an internet-based system used for determining employment eligibility.
Another difference is that Form I-9 is mandatory for all employers, while E-Verify is not a requirement for federal contractors and employers in every state. What's more, Form I-9 doesn't require an employee's social security number, but E-Verify does. Additionally, Form I-9 is completed by both employees and employers. On the other hand, E-Verify is electronically submitted by an employer.
Be Sure All Your New Employees Fill Out Section 1 of Form 1-9
Section 1 of Form I-9 form needs to be completed by all new employees or others you hire on their first day of work. However, it can't be done before a potential employee has been presented with a job offer and has accepted it.
Section 2 of the form must be filled out by you, the employer. You need to complete it within three business days after a new employee begins his or her employment at your business. If you hire someone for less than three business days, Section 2 has to be completed on an employee's first day of work.
Set Up an I-9 Compliance Strategy
Although there's no guarantee your company won't be audited by ICE, the best way to make sure you're I-9 compliant is to create a compliance plan. Assign one or more compliance officers to manage and enforce your compliance plan. Be sure anyone you designate with this responsibility thoroughly understands the I-9 procedure.
Your compliance plan should include methods on how to solve documentation that looks suspicious. It should also include storage and maintenance procedures for I-9s.
Conduct Internal Audits
It's essential that you conduct internal audits on a regular basis. This is important for ensuring that all your forms are in order and accurate. If there are any mistakes, you'll need to correct them before your business is forced to undergo an ICE investigation.
Don't File I-9s with Your Employees' Personnel Files
Your I-9s need to be in a separate location and not filed with your employees' personnel files. Usually, I-9s are stored in an electronic file or hard copy. They can also be kept in a binder that's available to very few people, such as in a human resource department.
Considerations and Warnings
- Except for independent contractors, all employees must have a valid Form I-9 on file. Another exception are people who only do periodic domestic work, such as within an employer's home.
- Even when employees leave your business, their I-9s still need to stay on file for a period of one year after they've left your company.
- All I-9s need to be kept for three years or more after the date that an employee is hired.
- Since January 22, 2017, employers are required to use the new version of I-9.
As a small business owner, you have enough on your plate without having to worry about I-9 compliance. That's why more and more construction business contractors are turning this job over to a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). Compliance support is only one of the many services a PEO offers to make running your business easier while saving you time and money. Please contact us at Harbor America and learn more about how a PEO can add more hours to your workday for running your business.