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Understanding employer responsibilities as they relate to Form I-9

Once a group of budding entrepreneurs comes up with what they believe will be a highly desired product or service, and a viable business model to make it a reality, the real work begins. Indeed, investors must be brought onboard, processes streamlined, facilities leased and, of course, staff hired.

Regarding this last point, entrepreneurs will likely do everything in their power to ensure that they're bringing the best possible people aboard during the nascent stages of their operations, as doing so will only serve to improve both the quality of their product and their overall productivity. 

While this is understandable, people in this position must proceed with some level of caution in the hiring process. Indeed, this means more than just making sure potential candidates will be a good fit, but also making sure that certain state and federal laws covering the hiring of new employees are observed.

By way of illustration, consider Form I-9, which employers must complete for the majority of new hires.

This document serves to verify the identity of new hires, ensure that they are legally permitted to work in the U.S. (i.e., U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, noncitizen national, alien authorized to work), and protects them from illegal discrimination based on their national origin or citizenship.

For those unfamiliar with some of the history behind Form I-9, it is largely the product of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which was designed to combat what was then seen by federal lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as the major problem of employers hiring individuals unable to legally work in the U.S. and, by doing so, perpetuating the problem of undocumented immigration.

Thanks to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the agencies tasked with ensuring Form I-9 compliance include U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (documentation of work authorization), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (enforcement of applicable penalty provisions), and the U.S. Department of Justice (enforcement of anti-discrimination provisions).

Having established some background information on Form I-9, our next post will discuss some of the basics about it, including when and for whom employers must file this important document.

If you are an employer with questions or concerns about I-9 compliance, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your responsibilities under the law.

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