All U.S. employers must complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form for each new hire, regardless of immigration status or citizenship. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publishes a Handbook for Employers with instructions and guidance directed to employers on how this form should be completed for foreign nationals. A copy of the Handbook can be accessed at the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf.
The newly published guide offers revisions and clarifications on appropriate documentation for lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, and work authorization documents for foreign nationals in temporary protected status (TPS). The Handbook provides detailed guidance on completing I-9 forms for individuals in J-1 exchange visitor status and F-1 and M-1 student status. Additionally, the Handbook explains how to complete the I-9 for F-1 students who are changing status to H-1B and are eligible for a “cap-gap” extension of status and employment authorization.
In a helpful revision to previous policy, the Handbook now states that an employee in valid H-1B status who changes (“ports”) to a new employer can begin to work with the new employer upon filing an H-1B petition with USCIS, rather than upon receipt of the I-797 Receipt Notice, which can take weeks to arrive in the mail.
The revised Handbook includes specific instructions on how U.S. employers should document employees’ I-9 files, as well as requirements for electronic records. For example, an employer must maintain and make available upon request complete descriptions of the electronic generation and storage system and the indexing system that permit the identification and retrieval of documents and records maintained.
For federal contractors, the revised Handbook provides additional guidance on responsibilities under the amended Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) related to employment eligibility verification. These clarifications make it easier for employers to properly complete I-9 forms for its employee’s that have unique situations.