Ask the Experts: Form I-9 Requirements and Documentation

Question: What is an employer’s legal obligation when a new hire has not provided documents to complete the Form I-9 by the 3rd business day?

Answer: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for an employer to knowingly hire or to continue to employ an individual who is or may become an unauthorized alien (not legally able to work in the United States). The employer may not continue to employ a person without a completed Form I-9 by the third day of employment.  Failure to comply with all Form I-9 requirements could result in civil penalties against the employer.  When new employees are unable to produce documentation of the legal right to work in the country, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that employment be discontinued until such appropriate documentation is presented for the completion of the Form I-9.

According to the USCIS, the penalties for hiring unauthorized workers can be high.  Employers who violate the law may be subject to civil fines, criminal penalties (when there is a pattern or practice of violations), debarment from government contracts, court orders requiring the payment of back pay to individuals discriminated against as well as court orders requiring the employer to hire the individuals subject to unlawful employment discrimination.  For more information about the rules relating to work hire authorization click here, and for fines and penalties, click here.