Our team of SHRM certified strategists recently traveled to the annual Indiana HR Conference. They came back with a plethora of useful and important information. Over the coming weeks ExactHire will be detailing what we believe to be the most important takeaways from this conference. Starting off this series is the importance of the I-9 Form.
What is an I-9 Form?
After working diligently to fill vacancies with key talent, Human Resources professionals are tasked with onboarding new team members efficiently. HR has a plethora of supportive responsibilities with the new hire. Welcoming them to their team and company as a whole, acclimate them to the environment, answer their questions, support their growth, and so on. Those duties put the “human” in “human resources”. However, HR is tasked with compliance obligations that cannot be ignored. One of the most important tasks that HR is responsible for is verifying the new hire’s eligibility to work through the use of the Eligibility Verification Form (I-9). This process is required by the federal government. If it is not completed or completed incorrectly, penalties may be incurred.
Here are some pieces of key info that can guide HR professionals about the employment eligibility and onboarding processes. Note: ExactHire does not provide legal counsel so please check with your company’s legal team regarding employee work eligibility questions.
If a company hires individual(s) who are not legally eligible to work, or if the company maintains employment of employees whom they know are not legally eligible to work, the company may be fined. These fines are not pocket change. Penalties can range from $230 to $20,130 PER violation. Frequent violators tend to receive higher penalties. If there is a pattern of hiring unauthorized employees, employers may be subject to criminal penalties. HR professionals must be cognizant of which documents qualify as employee verification tools and complete the verification process accurately in a timely manner. It is possible that a new hire might provide several pieces of documentation that satisfy I-9 requirements. If this occurs, do not record more than is necessary. Have the employee select an acceptable document that meets List A or documents that meet List B and List C.
Who Needs an I-9 Form?
Employers are required to maintain the I-9 for potential inspection for all current employees. When an employee is terminated or willingly leaves, an employer must keep the I-9 on file for at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employee is no longer hired, whichever is longer. This is where onboarding software is essential. Companies who use onboarding software have a secure means to collect confidential items securely and in a timely manner. They can also keep them organized to refer to when necessary. Messy handwriting on forms is no longer an issue when new hires can securely input personal data into the platform. Keep in mind that within three days of a new employee’s start date, the I-9 must be completed and countersigned. Instead of chasing down people to complete the task, save time and money by automating.
How to Properly Complete the I-9 Form
Let’s talk about the three day window on signing and countersigning the I-9 in more depth. The new hire must complete Section 1 of the I-9 by the end of the first day of employment. Once the new hire signs Section 1, the employer is now obligated (in most scenarios) to complete Section 2 within three days after the new hire’s first day of work. Weekends do count as business days if the company is operational over the weekend. Ambitious employees can complete the I-9 before their first day of work. As long as they have accepted the job offer for employment with the company. Companies should not start the I-9 process before hiring an employee though.
It is important to make sure that an employer is using the correct version of the I-9 at all times. The latest version of the I-9 was released August 1, 2023 and will be required for use starting November 1, 2023. A HR employee might be unsure if they are using the most recent version. Always check the version date which is listed in the bottom left corner. The version, previous to the new August one, which was released October 21, 2019 can be used through October 31, 2023.
Another perk of using onboarding software is having the form automatically updated within the platform so HR will know they are using the correct form. There is a Spanish I-9 form, but it is only for use by employers and employees in Puerto Rico. If an organization has Spanish speaking employees who are not fluent in English, it is important to find a translator to assist in translating the English version and answering any questions the employee might have.
A very handy and intuitive tool used in the employment verification process is E-Verify. E-Verify is a web-based system that allows employers to confirm employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. This does not replace the I-9; however, it electronically confirms an employee’s information against millions of government records. When an employer uses E-Verify, it shows a bona fide effort to hire eligible workers. It provides an extra layer of reassurance to employers knowing they have taken additional measures to prevent the employment of unauthorized workers.
Finding key talent is challenging and full of competition. After Human Resources completes the hiring process starting with Point A, an employer cannot forget about Point Z. Having a streamlined onboarding process that focuses on welcoming and acclimating new hires to the environment is crucial for retention. Spending time chasing new hires to complete paperwork is not cost effective nor does it demonstrate a “personal” aspect to the new hires.
It is important that organizations identify and understand the value of using onboarding software to automate tasks and shift focus to the human side of human resources. Simplify the employment verification process with the integration of E-Verify. While E-Verify is not a required tool for verification purposes, using an onboarding platform with E-Verify can offer so much more efficiency and simplicity. If you would like to learn more how ExactHire’s OnboardCentric, available with E-Verify, can boost your company’s productivity and save you money, reach out to us here or call us at 317.296.8000.