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Employment Practices

Complying with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: A Challenging Task

Paul Siegel | October 1, 2006

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Employers should not request employment documentation or ask candidates to complete the I-9 form before their first day of work. Prescreening potential employees by requiring them to show immigration documentation prior to hire may lead to discrimination in denying work-authorized individuals a job due to their nationality or other protected category.

To ensure compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) I-9 regulations, new employees should not be asked to show specific documents when completing I-9 employment eligibility verification, regardless of whether they are or appear to be from a foreign country. This rule applies because the law requires only that the employer show the list of acceptable documents to the employee at the time of hire and allow the employee to decide what documentation from the list to present.

Employers may not determine which documents must be tendered to prove lawful work status or identity so long as the employee submits acceptable documentation from the list on the I-9 form; the document or documents appear to be authentic; and the document or documents relate to the person presenting them. If a worker produces documents which contradict any statement in the attestation section of the I-9 form (regarding whether they are a U.S. Citizen, Legal Permanent Resident, or Alien authorized to work until a specific date), the employer should point out the inconsistency and ask the employee to correct the error or explain the discrepancy. A Social Security card may be requested specifically for payroll purposes, not in the I-9 employment eligibility verification context.

Copies of employment eligibility documentation are not required to be made by the IRCA. Employers have the option to make and attach copies of this documentation to the employee's I-9 form, or not to take copies. The key is consistency, i.e., employers should not make copies of documents only for certain employees. It is generally recommend that copies be made to ensure that there is proof of a good-faith review of the documents tendered, but care must be taken to ensure that only those documents the employee is relying on for employment eligibility purposes are kept with the I-9 form.

This means that if the employee produces a permanent resident card (a.k.a. "Green Card") for the I-9 form, and a Social Security card for payroll purposes, only a copy of the Green Card should be attached to the I-9 form. Including the unnecessary additional document copy with the I-9 is considered unlawful "over-documentation."

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