Quick-service operators need to become familiar with the upcoming changes to the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, known as the I-9, before it becomes a legal requirement less than a month from today.

The changes were originally planned to go into effect February 2, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) delayed them until April 3 to allow the public additional time to submit comments.

The I-9 is used to verify employees’ identities and confirm they are authorized to work in the U.S.

“In the past with identity documents, they could be expired” says Sarah Hawk, partner in global immigration at Fisher & Phillips law firm in Atlanta. “Now they must be valid. They have to be current and before their expiration date.”

She goes on to explain that other sections that have been changed including the expanded status descriptions in Section 1 should not raise concerns among employers. “There are really no other problems,” she says.

Once the revised I-9 takes effect, operators will be required to use the new form for all new hires as well as for employees who need to be re-verified because their work authorization has expired. Using the old form will be illegal.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association, however, has some concerns about the changes and sent a letter to the USCIS arguing the new form fails to address documentation for aliens with special circumstances.

“Making effective the inadequate I-9 regulation and I-9 form at this time imposes exceptional burdens and costs on employers,” the group’s president and executive director wrote in the January 29 letter.

As the deadline looms closer, Hawk says most employers are aware of the changes and have been kept up to date by their lawyers. Many firms are keeping clients informed by hosting webinars or sending briefings.

According to Hawk, the form can be completed without a lot of knowledge about immigration if an operator’s workforce is made up of mainly American citizens.

“But if you have a workforce that has refugees or temporary protected status [workers], that could cause a need for more immigration training,” she says.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the following I-9 regulation changes will affect restaurant operators:

• Employers will no longer be able to accept expired documents to verify employees’ work eligibility.

• List A documents —documents that do double duty as proof of both identity and eligibility to work in the U.S.—no longer include forms I-688 (temporary resident card) and I-688A and I-688B (outdated employment authorization cards).

• The form will add certain foreign passports to the acceptable List A documents.

• The new form includes minor technical changes in the language where employees attest that the information they provided is valid.

–Blair Chancey

Legal, News