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Georgia Legislature passes HB 87

On 4/14/11, the Georgia Legislature passed HB 87, an immigration enforcement bill that 

1. allows police to perform immigration status checks of criminal suspects
2. requires businesses to utilize E-Verify, and 
3. imposes harsh sentences for any individual using false documentation to obtain employment.

USCIS’ Handbook for Employers – Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form)


A 1/05/11 edition of the M-274, Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) from USCIS.

USCIS Reminds all U.S. Employers of Requirements to Use Revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification


WASHINGTON, April 3, 2009 — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) issued a reminder that the revised Form I-9,
Employment Eligibility Verification (Rev. 02/02/09), goes into effect
today for all U.S. employers. The revision date is printed on the lower
right-hand corner of the form.

The interim final rule, published
Dec.17, 2008 in the Federal Register, revised the list of documents
acceptable for the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)
process.  Employers may no longer use previous versions of the Form I-9.

revised list improves the security and effectiveness of the Form I-9
process. The list specifies that expired documents are no longer
acceptable forms of identification or employment authorization.
Allowing for expired documents makes it more difficult for employers to
verify an employee’s identity and employment authorization and
compromises the Form I-9 process.

USCIS also updated the
Handbook for Employers – Instructions for Completing Form I-9 to
reflect the requirements of the revised Form I-9.

Employers who do not have computer access can order Forms I-9 by calling our toll-free forms line at 1-800-870-3676. 

forms and information on immigration laws, regulations, and procedures
can also be requested by calling the National Customer Service Center
toll-free at 1-800-375-5283.

USCIS Updates I-9 Form

USCIS now offers the new version of Form I-9; however, two versions exist. Please note that the 06/05/07 version is only available if used BEFORE February 2, 2009. The 02/02/09 version will be appropriate for use ON or AFTER February 2, 2009.

USCIS Announces Revised Form I-9


On November 7, 2007, USCIS announced that a revised Employment
Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) is available for use as well as the
M-274, Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing the Form
I-9. Key to the revision is the removal of five documents for proof of
both identity and employment eligibility. They include: Certificate of
U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-570); Certificate of Naturalization
(Form N-550 or N-570); the old Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form
I-151); the Reentry Permit (Form I-327); and the Refugee Travel
Document (Form I-571). USCIS “encourages” use of the new form
immediately, but indicates that it will not be required until notice is
published in the Federal Register.

New Program Aims to Help Employers Comply with Immigration Law


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a new initiative to help employers ensure that they are hiring and employing a workforce that is authorized to work in the United States.

Called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE), the program is designed to build cooperative relationships between government and businesses to strengthen hiring practices and reduce the employment of illegal aliens. The initiative also seeks to accomplish greater industry compliance and corporate due diligence through enhanced enhanced federal training and education of employers .

Under the program, the department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will partner with companies that will serve as charter members of IMAGE and liaisons to the larger business community.

As part of this program, businesses must also adhere to a series of best practices, including the use of the Basic Pilot Employment Verification Program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To date, more than 10,000 employers are using the Basic Pilot Employment Verification to check the work authorization of their newly hired employees.

ICE will provide training and education to IMAGE partners on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection, and anti-discrimination laws. ICE will also share data with employers on the latest illegal schemes used to circumvent legal hiring processes. Furthermore, ICE will review the hiring and employment practices of IMAGE partners.

Those companies that comply with the terms of IMAGE will become “IMAGE certified,” a distinction that ICE says could become an industry standard.

In order to participate in the program, companies must first agree to a Form I-9 audit by ICE. They must also use the Basic Pilot Employment Verification program when hiring employees. In order to become IMAGE-certified, partners must also adhere to a series of best practices. These include the creation of internal training programs for completing employment verification forms and detecting fraudulent documents. IMAGE partners must also arrange for audits by neutral parties and establish protocols for responding to no-match letters from the Social Security Administration. ICE is also asking employers to establish a tip line for employees to report violations and mechanisms for companies to self-report violations to ICE. A full list of best practices can be found at .

U.S. said helpless in hiring of aliens

Via The Washington Post

The federal government is not capable of helping employers determine
whether workers in the U.S. are illegal aliens, a government official
will testify before a Senate subcommittee this afternoon.

    Richard M. Stana, director of homeland security and justice
for the Government Accountability Office, said that two decades after
Congress ordered the government to create a program to prevent the
hiring of illegals, such a program still doesn’t exist.

    Immigration specialists have “found that the single most
important step that could be taken to reduce unlawful immigration is
the development of a more effective system for verifying work
authorization,” Mr. Stana said in prepared testimony obtained by The
Washington Times.

Continue reading

US cut back on illegal-worker penalties

Via The Boston Globe

Data indicate lax enforcement against employers

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration, which is vowing to crack down
on US companies that hire illegal immigrants, virtually abandoned such
employer sanctions before it began pushing to overhaul US immigration
laws last year, government figures show.

In light of the government’s record, analysts on all sides of the
debate are expressing doubt the administration will be able to remove
the American job magnet that attracts illegal immigrants.

Between 1999 and 2003, worksite enforcement operations were scaled
back 95 percent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which
subsequently was merged into the Homeland Security Department. The
number of employers prosecuted for unlawfully employing immigrants
dropped from 182 to four, and fines collected declined from $3.6
million to $212,000, according to federal data. In 1999, the United
States initiated fines against 417 companies. In 2004, it issued fine
notices to three.

The government’s steady retreat from workplace enforcement in the 20
years since it became illegal to hire undocumented workers is the
result of fierce political pressure from business lobbies, immigrant
rights groups, and members of Congress, according to law enforcement

Continue reading

ICE Publishes Interim Rule Permitting Electronic Retention of Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)

FR Doc E6-9283
[Federal Register: June 15, 2006
(Volume 71, Number 115)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 34510-34517]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access


Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

8 CFR Part 274a

[BICE 2345-05; DHS-2005-0046]
RIN 1653-AA47

Electronic Signature and Storage of Form I-9, Employment
Eligibility Verification

AGENCY: Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS.

ACTION: Interim rule with request for comments.

SUMMARY: This interim rule amends Department of Homeland Security
regulations to provide that employers and recruiters or referrers for a
fee who are required to complete and retain Forms I-9, Employment
Eligibility Verification, may sign and retain these forms
electronically. This interim rule implements statutory changes to the
Form I-9 retention requirements by establishing standards for
electronic signatures and the electronic retention of the Form I-9.

DATES: Effective Date: This interim rule is effective June 15, 2006.
Comment Date: Written comments must be submitted on or before
August 14, 2006.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by docket number, by one
of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal:

Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
Mail: Jim Knapp, Associate Legal Advisor, Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Room 6100, 425 I. St., NW.,
Washington, DC 20536.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Knapp, Associate Legal Advisor,
Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Room 6100, 425 I St.,
NW., Washington, DC 20536. Telephone (202) 514-8138 (not a toll-free


I. Background

A. Employment Eligibility Verification Requirement

Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), 8 U.S.C.
1324a, requires all United States employers, agricultural associations,
agricultural employers, farm labor contractors, or persons or other
entities who recruit or refer persons for employment for a fee, to
verify the employment eligibility and identity of all employees hired
to work in the United States after November 6, 1986. To comply with the
law, an employer, or a recruiter or referrer for a fee, is responsible
for the completion of an Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form
I-9) for all employees, including United States citizens. 8 CFR 274a.2.

Completed Forms I-9 are not filed with the Federal Government;

instead, the completed I-9 form is retained by the employer. Employers
are required to retain Forms I-9 in their own files for three years
after the date of hire of the employee or one year after the date that
employment is terminated, whichever is later. 8 CFR 274a.2(c)(2).
Recruiters or referrers for a fee are required to retain the Forms I-9
for three years after the date of hire. Id. at (d)(2). The failure to
properly complete and retain the Forms I-9 subjects the employer to
civil money penalties. Section 274A of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1324a(e)(5).

B. Format of the Form I-9

Form I-9 has been made available to the public in numerous paper
and electronic means since 1986. The Form I-9 is currently available
online at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web
site at ( as a Portable Document Format (.pdf)
fillable–printable form
type the required information into it for a prospective employee, and
print it. The form may then be retained in paper, microfilm, or
microfiche form. In conjunction with this interim rule, the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) is upgrading the downloadable PDF version of
Form I-9 to enable employers and employees to electronically sign and
save the filled Form I-9. This provides employers an additional option
for convenience and savings. This PDF version of Form I-9 complies with
the electronic form requirements of this rule.

However, existing DHS regulations do not permit the form to be
completed and stored electronically as an original record. On October
30, 2004, Public Law 108-390, 11 Stat. 2242, authorized employers to
retain Forms I-9 in electronic format, effective April 29, 2005, or the
effective date of implementing regulations, whichever occurred first.
The legislation also allows employers and employees t

o manifest
attestations using electronic signature technology.

This interim rule conforms the regulations to the requirements of
Public Law 108-390 and permits employers to complete, sign, and store
Forms I-9 electronically, as long as certain performance standards set
forth in this interim rule for the electronic filing system are met.
This interim rule also permits employers to electronically scan and
store existing Forms I-9, as long as standards set forth in this
interim rule for the electronic storage system are met. The interim
rule adopts performance standards that have been proven by other
agencies in the past and provides flexibility for employers to choose a
method of retention that is the most economically feasible for their
specific business. Utilizing the most widely applicable standards,
those adopted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax records,
provides the widest possible cost savings within the business community
because of existing compliance with those standards.

C. Electronic Recordkeeping Standards

There is no single United States Government-wide electronic
recordkeeping standard for recordkeeping by private individuals and
entities. However, some United States Government agencies provide
electronic recordkeeping standards for use in transactions with that
agency. These standards provide a baseline for proven practices. To the
extent that these standards are applicable to the electronic storage of
Form I-9, DHS attempts to use the requirements and language of existing
standards. At the same time, DHS recognizes that systems for electronic
recordkeeping develop rapidly with the creation of new storage
mechanisms, mediums, and methods. Accordingly, the standards adopted in
this rule are “product neutral” and will guide the application of new
products to meet minimum performance standards, rather than
establishing specific requirements.

[[Page 34511]]

The Internal Revenue Service’s Rev. Proc. 97-22, 1997-1 C.B. 652,
1997-13 I.R.B. 9 (March 31, 1997), and Rev. Proc. 98-25, 1998-1 C.B.
689, 1998-11 I.R.B. 7 (March 16, 1998), specify electronic
recordkeeping standards for taxpayers. This regulation closely follows
the widely accepted electronic storage standards and requirements set
forth in the IRS Rulings previously published. The derivation of the
substantive standards of this interim rule is set forth below.

See PDF for Chart: Derivation of Substantive Standards for Electronic Retention of Form I-9

The widespread application of these IRS standards by the business
community is the critical reason for adoption of these standards. This
adoption of existing standards should reduce any potential burden on
the portion of the business community that decides to utilize
electronic retention.

In 17 CFR 240.17a4, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
specifies electronic recordkeeping standards for certain exchange
members, brokers and dealers. DHS did not incorporate specific language
from the SEC provisions; however, it did find them instructive on how
to establish electronic systems. In particular, 8 CFR 240.17a4(f)
provides instruction on audit and indexing systems that employers could
find helpful when complying with the similar provisions set forth in
this regulation.

Also instructive are the regulations of the National Archives and
Records Administration found in 36 CFR part 1234, which set standards
for federal agencies to use in order to enhance the trustworthiness of
an agency’s own electronic records and their admissibility as evidence
in court proceedings. Employers utilizing electronic retention and
signature technology for Form I-9 may find it helpful to review system
requirements placed upon Federal agencies. These standards define terms
of art related to the requirements of this regulation and provide
information that could help guide businesses establish security and
maintenance procedures for electronic records.

Using precedents set by 36 CFR part 1234 and other United States
Government agencies, this interim rule provides a reasonable set of
standards for creating a trustworthy system for Form I-9 completion and
storage. The standards are technology neutral, and allow businesses the
flexibility to keep records in a manner consistent with other business
processes. They also provide DHS investigators with a framework for
inspecting the records and assessing their trustworthiness.

DHS is working with the IRS to develop audit protocols to minimize
requirements on businesses to provide information from Forms I-9 when
the DHS Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determines
that audit and review is necessary.

D. Development of the Rule

After the President signed Public Law 108-390, a working group was
established within DHS, consisting of representatives from ICE and
USCIS. This regulation was developed, drawing upon work begun under the
legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service, as well as relying on
standards developed by other Federal agencies utilizing electronic
retention and signature methods. On December 10, 2004, at the request
of the United States Chamber of Commerce, DHS representatives met with
the Electronic I-9 Coalition. This Coalition consisted of
representatives from a wide array of business interests. The Chamber of
Commerce facilitated the meeting so the Coalition members could express
views to DHS regarding the importance of the statute and to offer
insight on methods of storage and attestation being contemplated by the
business community. DHS representatives listened to the views
presented, but could not offer any guidance on specific aspects of the
regulation. DHS has carefully considered the views expressed and, to
the extent practical and in the public interest, incorporated those
suggestions. There are a number of potential advantages that employers
may gain through use of electronic Forms I-9. Many employers may
experience cost savings by storing Forms I-9 electronically rather than
using conventional filing and storage of paper copies or transferring
the forms to microfilm or microfiche. Electronic forms may allow
employers to better ensure that each Form I-9 is properly completed and
retained. Some employers may find that electronic completion and
storage renders the process less prone to error. Electronically
retained Forms I-9 are more easily searchable, which is important for
re-verification, quality assurance and inspection purposes. This will
be especially helpful and cost-effective for large employers that have
job sites across the country or that have high employee turnover rates.

On April 26, 2005, a fact sheet was published on the ICE Web site
to provide information on the development of the regulation based on
IRS Revenue Procedure 97-22. The fact sheet included suggested
standards established by IRS, and advantages for using electronic
signature and retention of Form I-9.

E. Employer Compliance

An employer that is currently complying with the recordkeeping and
retention requirements of current 8 CFR 274.2 is not required to take
any additional or different action to comply

[[Page 34512]]

with the revised rules. The revised rules offer an additional option.
Businesses will be permitted to adopt one or more of a number of
different electronic recordkeeping, attestation, and retention systems
that are compliant with the existing IRS standards.

For example, a small business may wish to download and retain .pdf
versions of the employment verification record. DHS made this system
available on the USCIS Web site.

Employers who already utilize electronic data recordkeeping as part
of their accounting and tax functions may expand those functions to
include the employment verification process. As long as the electronic
records system remains IRS-compliant, the system will be ICE-compliant.

F. Public Participation

Interested persons are invited to participate in this rulemaking by
submitting written data, views, or arguments on all aspects of the
proposed rule. DHS also invites comments that relate to the economic,
environmental, or federalism affects that might result from this
proposed rule. Comments that will provide the most assistance to DHS in
developing these procedures will reference a specific portion of the
proposed rule, explain the reason for any recommended change, and
include data, information, or authority that support such recommended

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name
and docket number for this rulemaking. All comments received will be
posted without change to, including any
personal information provided.
Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or
comments received, go to Submitted comments
may also be inspected at the street at the address noted above by
making an appointment with the individual listed as the individual to
contact for further information.

II. Regulatory Requirements

A. Administrative Procedure Act (Good Cause Exception)

Implementation of this rule as an interim rule effective on June
15, 2006, with a request for public comment after the effective date of
the rule is based upon the “good cause” exceptions found under the
Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 553(b)( and (d)(3). DHS
has determined that delaying implementation of this rule until after a
period for public notice and comment, analysis of the public comments
(if any), preparation of a final rule, and providing a delayed post-
publication effective date of at least 30 days, are impracticable and
contrary to the public interest for the following reasons:

This regulation adopts existing, widely-utilized standards for
electronic recordkeeping to permit any employer who is required to
retain Form I-9, to retain that form in an electronic format. Because
of the widespread application of the same rules required to establish
taxable income and other matters within the jurisdiction of the IRS in
the larger accounting context, it is impractical to adopt differing
rules for a specific set of employment forms. Accordingly, providing an
opportunity for notice and comment on whether to adopt such widely
accepted standards is impractical and unnecessary. Also, the rule
provides additional optional methods for complying with an existing
requirement. The methods may be utilized or not utilized, in the
discretion of the employer. Therefore, a delayed effective date is not

DHS recognizes that the effective date of the underlying statute
authorizing electronic retention of Form I-9 was April 28, 2005. DHS
will not require that forms created between that date and the effective
date of the rule must comply with this rule. If an audit of such
records is required, DHS will permit the employer to provide the forms
in paper form; this rule does not require that any employer use an
electronic record keeping system.

Moreover, as far as DHS can determine at this time, “off the
shelf” computer programs and commercial automated data processing
systems in use comply with the standards required by this rule. DHS is
not aware of systems that would not immediately be useable under the

Accordingly, DHS finds that no employer required to retain Form I-9
would be adversely affected by the adoption of this rule without pre-
promulgation notice and comment or a delayed effective date.

DHS nevertheless invites comments on this interim rule and will
consider all timely comments in the preparation of a final rule. In
particular, DHS is interested in identifying whether any existing
systems for electronic record keeping do not comply with these
standards in order to adjust the standards or provide a means to
resolving any discrepancies.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) mandates that DHS conduct an
RFA analysis when an agency is “required by section 553, or any other
law, to publish general notice of proposed rulemaking for any proposed
rule.” 5 U.S.C. 603(a). RFA analysis is not required when a rule is
exempt from notice and comment rulemaking under 5 U.S.C. 553(b). DHS
has determined that good cause exists under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)( to
exempt this rule from the notice and comment requirements of 5 U.S.C.
553(b). Therefore, no RFA analysis under 5 U.S.C. 603 is required for
this rule.

C. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

This interim rule will not result in an expenditure by state,
local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private
sector, of $100 million or more in any one year, and it will not
significantly or uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no
actions were deemed necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act of 1995.

D. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

This interim rule is not a major rule as defined by section 804 of
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. This
interim rule will not result in an annual effect of $100 million or
more on the economy; a major increase in costs or prices; or
significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment,
productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United States-based
companies to compete with foreign-based companies in domestic and
export markets. Since utilizing electronic signature and storage
technologies are optional, DHS expects that small businesses will only
choose electronic methods if they will save costs and/or lessen overall
burden. Providing this option should, therefore, have a net cost-saving
effect to small businesses.

E. Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review)

This interim rule is considered by DHS to be a “significant
regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866, section 3(f),
Regulatory Planning and Review. Accordingly, the rule has been
submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OM for review.

DHS has assessed both the cost and benefits of this interim rule as
required by Executive Order 12866 section 1(b)(6), and has made a
reasoned determination that the benefits of this interim rule justify
its costs to the public and Government. In fact, DHS anticipates that
both the public and

[[Page 34513]]

Government will experience a net cost savings as a result of this rule.
Whether to store Forms I-9 in an electronic format will be within the
discretion of the employer or the recruiter or referrer for a fee–
those that are already required under 8 CFR 274a.2 to retain the Forms

The number of Forms I-9 maintained throughout the country is
extremely large. Storage of Forms I-9 to meet the statutory retention
requirement may require the employer to make a significant investment
in personnel and storage space. Currently, storage costs for the paper
Form I-9 vary, depending on the storage facility used and the number of
Forms I-9 that must be stored. DHS believes that Form I-9 storage costs
are highest with large employers or those who have a high employee
attrition rate. At an estimated employer total labor cost of $20 per
hour, employer burden savings are estimated to be $13,000,000 annually.
DHS considers this a conservative estimate, which is based on agency
experience since the Form I-9 requirement was implemented. Further, we
expect that some employers will have capital costs at the outset,
depending on the size and complexity of the system chosen. DHS is
unable to estimate possible capital costs as these could vary widely as
employers implement a range of electronic options, from simply using a
scanner to electronically retain a completed Form I-9 to a complex
database that facilitates electronic completion, attestation,
retention, production, etc.

Employers utilizing electronic Forms I-9 will bear additional costs
associated with the documentation that this rule requires to establish
the integrity of the electronic Form I-9 process chosen. This is an
initial cost to the employer and will vary depending on the
sophistication and capacity of each system deployed. The documentation
necessary should accompany the software and hardware being used by the
employer to implement the electronic Form I-9.

For employers responsible for a significant number of Forms I-9,
these costs are expected to be lower than the costs associated with
retaining Forms I-9 in paper format. For employers who do not have a
large number of Forms I-9 to retain, utilizing an electronic Form I-9
may not be economical. However, the benefits of using an electronic
Form I-9 extend beyond storage space. DHS believes that employers using
electronic Forms I-9 will improve their accuracy rate. By completing
and/or storing Forms I-9 electronically, employers will be better able
to self-audit Forms I-9 in order to detect and correct errors.
Employers could create an electronic process for Form I-9 completion
that minimizes the possibility of errors. The process could include
prompts that preclude the user from completing the rest of the form
until an acceptable response is provided. Employers would also be
better able to create a reliable system to re-verify an employee’s
employment authorization when it is about to expire. The forms could be
stored on a computer maintained onsite rather than in boxes off-site or
other difficult-to-access locations, which DHS has observed when
conducting past Form I-9 audits. Electronically stored forms could be
presented for review in a matter of minutes rather than the lengthy
period required to access paper or microfiche archives. While employers
converting to an electronic Form I-9 format may incur initial costs,
DHS anticipates that employers who use an electronic Form I-9 system
tailored to their needs will generally achieve a net cost-savings in
both the short term and long term. In addition, DHS anticipates that
its Form I-9 audits will reveal a lower error rate. This should
translate into a more efficient employment eligibility verification
process for employers and, therefore, a lower incidence of unauthorized
workers in the workplace. In recent years, DHS has received many
queries from the employer community regarding the possibility of using
electronic Forms I-9, with electronic attestation, and storing the
forms electronically. Employers have expressed their frustration with
the requirement to keep paper forms or maintain the forms on microfilm
or microfiche when all other aspects of their businesses have been

For some employers, particularly small employers, retaining the
paper Form I-9 may continue to be the most cost-effective and efficient
storage method. This rule does not eliminate this option or discourage
employers from using it. The paper Form I-9 has the advantage of
recording the unique signature of the employee and of the employer
representative. This interim rule does not make any change to the
current paper Form I-9 process. Additionally, employers can utilize a
combination of paper and electronic methods for fulfilling the Form I-9
requirements. For example, an employer can complete the paper Form I-9
and use a scanner to retain electronically. Conversely, an employer can
choose to complete the Form I-9 electronically and retain the printed

For the Government, amending the regulations to permit the
electronic signatures and retention of Form I-9 has many advantages,
particularly with respect to DHS’s enforcement efforts. When conducting
audits, DHS will be able to receive Forms I-9 electronically, rather
than using staff resources to physically appear at a worksite. Once the
Form I-9 data is received electronically, DHS will have increased
flexibility in how it reviews and analyzes them. DHS will be able to
more easily compare data among multiple audits to locate unauthorized
workers, and store audit records for easy access. When investigating
the presence of unauthorized workers in the workplace, employers
violating the immigration laws, or national security risks, DHS will
have this information immediately available and with less risk of human
error. Additionally, there are circumstances in which the Department of
Labor and the Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel for
Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, access Forms I-9 in
order to exercise their responsibilities.

DHS anticipates that its own additional costs will be minimal. DHS
currently inputs Form I-9 information manually into a database. If an
employer chooses to electronically retain Form I-9, then the rule’s
requirement that Form I-9 information be presented in a particular
electronic format will enable the electronic transfer of information
from employer to DHS to be nearly instantaneous. Therefore, rather than
invest DHS investigator time in data entry, investigators will be free
to conduct more-thorough investigations.

Once employers begin to utilize electronic Forms I-9 and the
various electronic Form I-9 storage options, DHS will be able to better
gauge what additional or alternative database and storage options would
further increase the efficiency of its investigations. At present, DHS
will utilize current systems to implement this rule.

This rule does not limit employers to using one system for the
storage of Forms I-9 electronically, nor does it identify one method
for acceptable electronic signatures. Instead, this rule seeks to set
acceptable standards for employers. Electronic signatures can be
accomplished using various technologies including, but not limited to,
electronic signature pads, Personal Identification Numbers (PIN),
biometrics, and “click to accept” dialog boxes. DHS considered
specifying acceptable technologies, but rejected this alternative as
being too inflexible for employers’ needs and economic means. Moreover,
to specify a particular technology would require continuous

[[Page 34514]]

amendments to the regulations reflecting the rapid changes in
technology. DHS concluded that this approach would be impractical and
detrimental to employers since it would require continuous and
potentially costly changes to employers’ business practices.

F. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism)

This interim rule will not have a substantial direct effect on the
States, on the relationship between the National Government and the
States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the
various levels of Government. Therefore, in accordance with section 6
of Executive Order 13132, it is determined that this interim rule does
not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation
of a federalism summary impact statement.

G. Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform)

This interim rule meets the applicable standards set forth in
sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988.

H. Paperwork Reduction Act

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.,
all Departments are required to submit any reporting or recordkeeping
requirements inherent in a rule to the Office of Management and Budget
(OM for review and approval. This interim rule requires employers to
complete the Form I-9 which has been approved for use by OMB (OMB
Control Number 1615-0047); it also permits the employer to continue to
retain the Form I-9 in paper, microfiche, or microfilm, and allows a
new option: to retain the Form I-9 electronically. The DHS believes
that storing the I-9 electronically will reduce the burden on
businesses by 650,000 hours (see discussion below). Accordingly, DHS
submitted the required Paperwork Reduction Change Worksheet (OMB-83C)
to the Office of Management and Budget (OM reflecting the reduction
in burden hours for Form I-9, and the OMB has approved the changes.

DHS estimates that there will be a total of 78,000,000 respondents
annually who will complete the required Form I-9 in either paper or
electronic format. DHS has estimated that it takes 9 minutes to gather
the required evidence to complete the paper Form I-9 and an additional
4 minutes for employer verification, filing and storage. Because this
regulation is technology neutral, it is difficult for DHS to estimate
the average time required to complete a Form I-9 electronically, as
completion methods may vary widely depending upon the range of systems
implemented by employers. However, DHS does not believe the time per
respondent will change significantly as the documentation required is
unchanged. Many businesses could reduce the time burden by using an
electronic Form I-9, as the documentation could be collected from an
employee in conjunction with other types of personnel forms (i.e., tax
withholding forms, insurance and other benefit forms) that require
similar personal information.

For employers who choose electronic retention methods for the Form
I-9, DHS does expect a burden reduction. DHS previously estimated that
employers spend four minutes per form to verify and file. We project
that half of the estimated 78,000,000 Forms I-9 completed annually will
involve some method of electronic generation or retention. Employers
utilizing at least a partial electronic process for retention of the
Form I-9 should save a minimum of one minute of burden time per form
based on the previous estimate of 4 minutes per form for verification
and filing. Based on 39,000,000 Forms I-9, the total labor hours saved
would be 650,000 hours annually.

Under 8 CFR 274a.2(e) through (i), any employer who stores Form I-9
electronically or any employer that applies an electronic signature to
the Form I-9 must demonstrate that its electronic storage system is
properly maintained and protected against tampering, and that any
electronic signature can be authenticated. In addition, an employer or
entity who chooses to complete and/or retain Forms I-9 electronically
must maintain, and make available to the Department upon request,
documentation of the business process that: (1) Creates the retained
Forms I-9; (2) Modifies and maintains the retained Forms I-9; and (3)
Establishes the authenticity and integrity of the Forms I-9, such as
audit trails. These additional requirements are considered information
collections under the Paperwork Reduction Act. These requirements are
reflected in the Paperwork Reduction Change Worksheet (Form OMB 83-C)
that has been submitted to OMB and that specifies the estimated net
reduction in burden hours that will result from this rule.

List of Subjects in 8 CFR Part 274a

Administrative practice and procedure, Aliens, Employment,
Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

Accordingly, part 274a of chapter I of title 8 of the Code of Federal
Regulations is amended as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 274a continues to read as follows:
Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1101, 1103, 1324a; 8 CFR part 2.

2. Section 274a.2 is amended:

a. By revising paragraph (a);

b. By revising paragraph (b)(1)(i)(A);

c. By revising paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(;

d. By revising the last sentence in paragraph (b)(1)(iv);

e. By revising the last sentence of paragraph (b)(1)(vii);

f. By revising paragraph (b)(2)(i) introductory text;

g. By revising paragraph (b)(2)(ii);

h. By adding paragraph (b)(2)(iv);

i. By revising paragraph (b)(3);

j. By adding the term “or electronic images” immediately after
“copies” in paragraph (b)(4); and

k. By adding new paragraphs (e), (f), (g), (h), and (i).
The revisions and additions read as follows:

Sec. 274a.2 Verification of employment eligibility.

(a) General. This section establishes requirements and procedures
for compliance by persons or entities when hiring, or when recruiting
or referring for a fee, or when continuing to employ individuals in the
United States.

(1) Recruiters and referrers for a fee. For purposes of complying
with section 274A(b) of the Act and this section, all references to
recruiters and referrers for a fee are limited to a person or entity
who is either an agricultural association, agricultural employer, or
farm labor contractor (as defined in section 3 of the Migrant and
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, Pub. L. 97-470 (29 U.S.C.

(2) Verification form. Form I-9, Employment Eligibility
Verification Form, is used in complying with the requirements of this 8
CFR 274a.1–274a.11. Form I-9 can be in paper or electronic format. In
paper format, the Form I-9 may be obtained in limited quantities at
USCIS district offices, or ordered from the Superintendent of
Documents, Washington, DC 20402. In electronic format, a fillable
electronic Form I-9 may be downloaded from

Alternatively, Form I-9 can be electronically generated or retained,
provided that the resulting form is legible; there is no change to the
name, content, or sequence of the data elements and instructions; no

[[Page 34515]]

data elements or language are inserted; and the standards specified
under 8 CFR 274a.2(e), (f), (g), (h), and (i), as applicable, are met.
When copying or printing the paper Form I-9, the text of the two-sided
form may be reproduced by making either double-sided or single-sided

(3) Attestation Under Penalty and Perjury. In conjunction with
completing the Form I-9, an employer or recruiter or referrer for a fee
must examine documents that evidence the identity and employment
eligibility of the individual. The employer or recruiter or referrer
for a fee and the individual must each complete an attestation on the
Form I-9 under penalty of perjury.

(b) * * *
(1) * * *
(i) * * *

(A) Completes section 1–“Employee Information and
Verification”–on the Form I-9 at the time of hire and signs the
attestation with a handwritten or electronic signature in accordance
with paragraph (h) of this section; or if an individual is unable to
complete the Form I-9 or needs it translated, someone may assist him or
her. The preparer or translator must read the Form I-9 to the
individual, assist him or her in completing Section 1–“Employee
Information and Verification,” and have the individual sign or mark
the Form I-9 by a handwritten signature, or an electronic signature in
accordance with paragraph (h) of this section, in the appropriate
place; and
* * * * *

(ii) * * *

( Complete section 2–“Employer Review and Verification”–on
the Form I-9 within three days of the hire and sign the attestation
with a handwritten signature or electronic signature in accordance with
paragraph (i) of this section.
* * * * *

(iv) * * * If a recruiter or referrer designates an employer to
complete the employment verification procedures, the employer need only
provide the recruiter or referrer with a photocopy or printed
electronic image of the Form I-9, electronic Form I-9, or a Form I-9 on
microfilm or microfiche.

* * * * *

(vii) * * * The employer or the recruiter or referrer for a fee
must review this document, and if it appears to be genuine and relate
to the individual, re-verify by noting the document’s identification
number and expiration date, if any, on the Form I-9 and signing the
attestation by a handwritten signature or electronic signature in

with paragraph (i) of this section.
* * * * *

(2) * * *

(i) A paper (with original handwritten signatures), electronic
(with acceptable electronic signatures that meet the requirements of
paragraphs (h) and (i) of this section or original paper scanned into
an electronic format that meets the requirements of 8 CFR 274a.2(e),
(f), and (g)), or microfilm or microfiche copy of the original signed
version of the Form I-9 must be retained by an employer or a recruiter
or referrer for a fee for the following time periods:
* * * * *

(ii) Any person or entity required to retain Forms I-9 in
accordance with this section shall be provided with at least three days
notice prior to an inspection of the Forms I-9 by officers of an
authorized agency of the United States. At the time of inspection,
Forms I-9 must be made available in their original paper, electronic
form, a paper copy of the electronic form, or on microfilm or
microfiche at the location where the request for production was made.
If Forms I-9 are kept at another location, the person or entity must
inform the officer of the authorized agency of the United States of the
location where the forms are kept and make arrangements for the
inspection. Inspections may be performed at an office of an authorized
agency of the United States. A recruiter or referrer for a fee who has
designated an employer to complete the employment verification
procedures may present a photocopy or printed electronic image of the
Form I-9 in lieu of presenting the Form I-9 in its original paper or
electronic form or on microfilm or microfiche, as set forth in
paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section. Any refusal or delay in
presentation of the Forms I-9 for inspection is a violation of the
retention requirements as set forth in section 274A(b)(3) of the Act.
No Subpoena or warrant shall be required for such inspection, but the
use of such enforcement tools is not precluded. In addition, if the
person or entity has not complied with a request to present the Forms
I-9, any officer listed in 8 CFR 287.4 may compel production of the
Forms I-9 and any other relevant documents by issuing a subpoena.
Nothing in this section is intended to limit the subpoena power under
section 235(a) of the Act.
* * * * *

(iv) Paragraphs (e), (f), (g), (h), and (i) of this section specify
the standards for electronic Forms I-9.

(3) Copying of documentation. An employer, or a recruiter or
referrer for a fee may, but is not required to, copy or make an
electronic image of a document presented by an individual solely for
the purpose of complying with the verification requirements of this
section. If such a copy or electronic image is made, it must be
retained with the Form I-9. The copying or electronic imaging of any
such document and retention of the copy or electronic image does not
relieve the employer from the requirement to fully complete section 2
of the Form I-9. An employer, recruiter or referrer for a fee should
not, however, copy or electronically image only the documents of
individuals of certain national origins or citizenship statuses. To do
so may violate section 274B of the Act.

(4) Limitation on use of Form I-9. Any information contained in or
appended to the Form I-9, including copies or electronic images of
documents listed in paragraph (c) of this section used to verify an
individual’s identity or employment eligibility, may be used only for
enforcement of the Act and 18 U.S.C. 1001, 1028, 1546, or 1621.
* * * * *

(e) Standards for electronic retention of Form I-9. (1) Any person
or entity who is required by this section to complete and retain Forms
I-9 may complete or retain electronically Form I-9 in an electronic
generation or storage system that includes:

(i) Reasonable controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy and
reliability of the electronic generation or storage system;

(ii) Reasonable controls designed to prevent and detect the
unauthorized or accidental creation of, addition to, alteration of,
deletion of, or deterioration of an electronically completed or stored
Form I-9, including the electronic signature if used;

(iii) An inspection and quality assurance program evidenced by
regular evaluations of the electronic generation or storage system,
including periodic checks of the electronically stored Form I-9,
including the electronic signature if used;

(iv) In the case of electronically retained Forms I-9, a retrieval
system that includes an indexing system that permits searches by any
data element; and

(v) The ability to reproduce legible and readable hardcopies.

(2) All documents reproduced by the electronic retention system
must exhibit a high degree of legibility and readability when displayed
on a video display terminal or when printed on paper, microfilm, or
microfiche. The term “legibility” means the observer must be able to
identify all letters and

[[Page 34516]]

numerals positively and quickly, to the exclusion of all other letters
or numerals. The term “readability” means that the observer must be
able to recognize any group of letters or numerals that form words or
numbers as those words or complete numbers. The employer, or recruiter
or referrer for a fee, must ensure that the reproduction process
maintains the legibility and readability of the electronically stored

(3) An electronic generation or storage system must not be subject,
in whole or in part, to any agreement (such as a contract or license)
that would limit or restrict access to and use of the electronic
generation or storage system by an agency of the United States, on the
premises of the employer, recruiter or referrer for a fee (or at any
other place where the electronic generation or storage system is
maintained), including personnel, hardware, software, files, indexes,
and software documentation.

(4) A person or entity who chooses to complete or retain Forms I-9
electronically may use more than one electronic generation or storage
system. Each electronic generation or storage system must meet the
requirements of this paragraph, and remain available as long as
required by the Act and these regulations.

(5) For each electronic generation or storage system used, the
person or entity retaining the Form I-9 must maintain, and make
available upon request, complete descriptions of:

(i) The electronic generation and storage system, including all
procedures relating to its use; and

(ii) The indexing system.

(6) An “indexing system” for the purposes of paragraphs
(e)(1)(iv) and (e)(5) of this section is a system that permits the
identification and retrieval for viewing or reproducing of relevant
books and records maintained in an electronic storage system. For
example, an indexing system might consist of assigning each
electronically stored document a unique identification number and
maintaining a separate database that contains descriptions of all
electronically stored books and records along with their identification
numbers. In addition, any system used to maintain, organize, or
coordinate multiple electronic storage systems is treated as an
indexing system. The requirement to maintain an indexing system will be
satisfied if the indexing system is functionally comparable to a
reasonable hardcopy filing system. The requirement to maintain an
indexing system does not require that a separate electronically stored
books and records description database be maintained if comparable
results can be achieved without a separate description database.

(7) Any person or entity choosing to retain completed Forms I-9
electronically may use reasonable data compression or formatting
technologies as part of the electronic storage system as long as the
requirements of 8 CFR 274a.2 are satisfied.

(8) At the time of an inspection, the person or entity required to
retain completed Forms I-9 must:

(i) Retrieve and reproduce (including printing copies on paper, if
requested) only the Forms I-9 electronically retained in the electronic
storage system and supporting documentation specifically requested by
an agency of the United States, along with associated audit trails.
Generally, an audit trail is a record showing who has accessed a
computer system and the actions performed within or on the computer
system during a given period of time, and

(ii) Provide a requesting agency of the United States with the
resources (e.g., appropriate hardware and software, personnel and
documentation) necessary to locate, retrieve, read, and reproduce
(including paper copies) any electronically stored Forms I-9, any
supporting documents, and their associated audit trails, reports, and
other data used to maintain the authenticity, integrity, and
reliability of the records.

(iii) Provide, if requested, any reasonably available or obtainable
electronic summary file(s), such as a spreadsheet, containing all of
the information fields on all of the electronically stored Forms I-9
requested by a requesting agency of the United States.

(f) Documentation.

(1) A person or entity who chooses to complete and/or retain Forms
I-9 electronically must maintain and make available to an agency of the
United States upon request documentation of the business processes

(i) Create the retained Forms I-9;

(ii) Modify and maintain the retained Forms I-9; and

(iii) Establish the authenticity and integrity of the Forms I-9,
such as audit trails.

(2) Insufficient or incomplete documentation is a violation of
section 274A(a)(1)( of the Act.

(3) Any officer listed in 8 CFR 287.4 may issue a subpoena to
compel production of any documentation required by 8 CFR 274a.2.
Nothing in this section is intended to limit the subpoena power of an
agency of the United States under section 235(a) of the Act.

(g) Security.

(1) Any person or entity who elects to complete or retain Forms I-9
electronically must implement an effective records security program

(i) Ensures that only authorized personnel have access to
electronic records;

(ii) Provides for backup and recovery of records to protect against
information loss, such as power interruptions;

(iii) Ensures that employees are trained to minimize the risk of
unauthorized or accidental alteration or erasure of electronic records;

(iv) Ensure that whenever the electronic record is created,
accessed, viewed, updated, or corrected, a secure and permanent record
is created that establishes the date of access, the identity of the
individual who accessed the electronic record, and the particular
action taken.

(2) An action or inaction resulting in the unauthorized alteration,
loss, or erasure of electronic records, if it is known, or reasonably
should be known, to be likely to have that effect, is a violation of
section 274A(b)(3) of the Act.

(h) Electronic signatures for employee.

(1) If a Form I-9 is completed electronically, the attestations in
Form I-9 must be completed using a system for capturing an electronic
signature that meets the standards set forth in this paragraph. The
system used to capture the electronic signature must include a method
to acknowledge that the attestation to be signed has been read by the
signatory. The electronic signature must be attached to, or logically
associated with, an electronically completed Form I-9. In addition, the
system must:

(i) Affix the electronic signature at the time of the transaction;

(ii) Create and preserve a record verifying the identity of the
person producing the signature; and

(iii) Provide a printed confirmation of the transaction, at the
time of the transaction, to the person providing the signature.

(2) Any person or entity who is required to ensure proper
completion of a Form I-9 and who chooses electronic signature for a
required attestation, but who has failed to comply with the standards
set forth in this paragraph, is deemed to have not properly completed
the Form I-9, in violation of section 274A(a)(1)( of the Act and 8
CFR 274a.2(b)(2).

(i) Electronic signatures for employer, recruiter or referrer, or
representative. If a Form I-9 is completed electronically, the
employer, the recruiter or referrer for a fee, or the representative of

[[Page 34517]]

employer or the recruiter or referrer, must attest to the required
information in Form I-9. The system used to capture the electronic
signature should include a method to acknowledge that the attestation
to be signed has been read by the signatory. Any person or entity who
has failed to comply with the criteria established by this regulation
for electronic signatures, if used, and at the time of inspection does
not present a properly completed Form I-9 for the employee, is in
violation of section 274A(a)(1)( of the Act and 8 CFR 274a.2(b)(2).

Dated: June 8, 2006.
Michael Chertoff,

[FR Doc. E6-9283 Filed 6-14-06; 8:45 am]


Couple convicted of harboring maid


They face up to 45 years in prison, deportation


Posted: May 26, 2006

A wealthy Brookfield couple face up to 45 years in prison, forfeiture of their home and deportation to their native Philippines after being the first convicted in eastern Wisconsin of imposing forced labor on an illegal immigrant they harbored as a maid for 19 years.

A federal jury deliberated about seven hours before finding Jefferson N. and Elnora Calimlim guilty of all four felony immigration charges filed against them, including what a prosecutor said may be the nation’s first forced labor conviction not involving use of violence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Johnson hailed the convictions as a victory for protecting the civil rights of all people and preventing human trafficking.

“Holding somebody in involuntary servitude goes against the very nature and foundation of the United States,” Johnson said in an interview. “The Department of Justice is dedicated to preserving people’s rights, regardless of their status in life.”

Defense attorneys immediately vowed to appeal, saying the case was rife with issues because the forced labor charge was enacted in 2000 and largely untested in courts.

Prosecutors contended in trial that the Calimlims exploited and manipulated an uneducated woman from an impoverished family into thinking she had no choice but to work for them for long hours with minimal pay under harsh restrictions or face deportation.

Defense attorneys acknowledged that the family went to great lengths to keep her hidden in the home, but said that was done to protect her, not coerce her. They said the woman, Irma Martinez, agreed to the rules because she wanted to work for them rather than live in the Philippines.

The Calimlims’ son Jefferson M. Calimlim, 31, was found guilty of one felony for harboring an illegal immigrant but acquitted of two other charges. He faces a maximum five-year prison term when he and his parents are sentenced Sept. 15.

The parents each were convicted of harboring an illegal immigrant for financial gain, conspiracy to harbor an illegal immigrant, forced labor and attempted forced labor.

Because they are legal, permanent residents of the United States but citizens of the Philippines, the parents face “practically inevitable” deportation, Johnson told Chief Judge Rudolph T. Randa as she argued that the couple be jailed pending sentencing.

Deportation will be decided not by the judge but by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, Johnson said.

Johnson argued that the couple are a high flight risk because of their wealth and family connections to the Philippines, given the substantial prison time they faced.

She said they would be unable to fathom changing from “living from a life of privilege to living in a 10-by-13 cell.”

The husband is a practicing ear, nose and throat doctor; his wife is a licensed physician who stopped working in 1982.

Defense attorneys Tom Brown and Michael Fitzgerald objected to immediate incarceration, saying the two were professionals who would not want to be separated from their three U.S.-born children or the husband’s medical practice.

Government holds passports

Randa declined to jail the couple but said the government will continue to hold their passports.

The family declined to comment, as did Brown and Fitzgerald. Martinez, who is living in Chicago with federal assistance, was not in court when the verdicts were delivered.

Defense attorney Rodney Cubbie, representing the Calimlims’ son, argued that his client should never have been charged. He was not involved in hiring, paying or setting the terms of Martinez’s employment, which began when he was 11.

After graduating from college, Jeff Jr. was living at home when agents raided the family’s 8,600-square-foot home on Still Point Trail in September 2004 – acting on a tip from the estranged wife of another son, Jack Calimlim.

During the raid, Jeff Jr. lied to an FBI agent who quickly questioned the son as he was sitting on a bathroom toilet. The son said he hadn’t seen the maid in about a year, but the father showed agents where she was hiding in her basement bedroom closet. The jury acquitted the son of lying to the agent.

The eight-day trial included testimony from the maid and her parents, whom the federal government had flown to the United States and who lived in Chicago in preparation for the trial.

Defense attorneys focused their attacks on the forced labor charges, acknowledging that the couple did knowingly harbor an illegal immigrant.

They argued, however, that it was not done for financial gain – a required element of the crime. They said the couple, who live in a $1.2 million suburban Milwaukee home with tennis courts and a four-car garage, were not motivated by obtaining cheap labor as the prosecution contended.

They said the family was driven by their Filipino culture.

The couple were raised in well-off families, with the family trees dominated by generations of doctors and nurses. Elnora Calimlim said she and her five siblings each had their own nanny growing up and she was very close to her nanny, confiding in her like a mother.

Elnora’s father, a physician, was the one who found Irma Martinez and made arrangements for her to be his daughter’s housekeeper and help raise his grandchildren.

Susan French, a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division in Washington, D.C., told jurors that the Calimlims’ stance that they wanted to help, not exploit, an impoverished Filipino woman was “bogus” and “preposterous.”

If they wanted to help her and her family, why didn’t they pay her a U.S. minimum wage? French asked.

Elnora Calimlim testified that Irma Martinez was paid $1,800 a year for the first 10 years and $4,800 a year thereafter.

Brown said those wages, while “peanuts” in the U.S., were worth much more in pesos to the Martinez family. With the wages, they bought a sturdier home, land to farm, farming tools, medicine and education for their children.

Employers walk a legal tightrope

Via The Kansas City Star

llegal immigration is built into U.S. law.

That’s the no-holds-barred truth, spoken by Mira Mdivani, an Overland Park attorney specializing in immigration law.

“Employers have to violate the law, and people have to come
illegally, and now the potato is too hot to handle,” Mdivani said in
calculated hyperbole.

The numbers of H1B and H2B work visas authorized by Congress are
inadequate, she said. The annual visa quotas often are snapped up by
the first day of the fiscal year, leaving employers another year of
time and expense to try to get legal work permits for people they hire.

At a recent employment law seminar sponsored by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce,
Mdivani counseled about a dozen employers who were trying hard to dot
their i’s correctly and stay out of trouble if immigration officials
come calling.

Mdivani congratulated them on their concern — and then presented a daunting outline of how to hire immigrants legally.

Currently, she said, she’s representing an immigrant whose work visa
has expired. The system is so backlogged, though, that it may be a year
before her client gets the updated paperwork that certifies legal
worker status.

The client’s employer thinks the worker must be fired because of the visa expiration.

“That’s not right,” Mdivani said. “You don’t have to get rid of the
person. The person is perfectly authorized to work. The permit is
automatically extended, even if the paperwork takes a year.”

But extensions are different from first-time authorizations. And
that’s the truly hot potato. Countless U.S. employers simply ignore
immigration law and hope the authorities don’t visit.

That’s why it was somewhat bittersweet to hear the detailed
questions from the handful of Overland Park business operators who
attended Mdivani’s presentation.

Take their concerns about proper handling of I-9s. Those are the Employment Eligibility Verification forms distributed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 required employers to
verify the identity and work authorization status of all employees by
filling out I-9 forms. It’s a headache that, essentially, asks
employers to be immigration police and forgery experts.

But the worries about ferreting out illegal workers don’t stop
there. Employers who want to walk a legal line also need to be careful
about how they handle their I-9 paperwork.

For example, Mdivani said, a company leaves itself wide open for
discrimination lawsuits if it asks for I-9s only from workers who
appear to be foreign-born.

“If discovery finds that ‘Peter Smith’ doesn’t have an I-9 on file
but ‘Pedro Rodriguez’ does, that could be a problem. The law needs to
be applied the same to everyone,” Mdivani warned.

And then there’s the matter of when an I-9 form is presented to the worker. It must be after the job offer is extended, not before, to avoid the appearance of discriminatory hiring practices.

That fine line between immigration and civil rights law is a tightrope for the employers who are trying to do things right.

And that’s a sector that hasn’t been massing in demonstrations in recent weeks.

Avoiding H-1B Visa Wage Violations


H-1B visas allow certain skilled foreign nationals to work in the United States
for 3 years or, if renewed, for 3 years more. They are used most frequently
by high-tech employers, universities, and multinational employers that find
workers with certain qualifications in short supply. The visas are available
for jobs that require at least a bachelor’s degree and call for the theoretical
application of a highly specialized body of knowledge.

Recently, Computech Inc., which places computer professionals at workplaces
throughout the nation, agreed to pay $2,250,000 in back wages and a $400,000
fine to settle Department of Labor (DOL) charges that it violated H-1B visa
rules concerning the employment of over 230 foreign nationals.

Computech allegedly didn’t pay workers on H-1B visas, several of whom
were in California, the minimum required wage rates in the areas where they
were employed. Computech was also accused of frequently “benching”
the H-1B workers without compensation, which violates H-1B program rules. Besides
the back wages and fine, the settlement also prohibits Computech from participating
in the H-1B visa program for 18 months.

Avoid Trouble

Many employers that hire foreign workers on H-1B visas when work is plentiful
often struggle with what to do with them when times are tough. But as the recent
Computech development shows, paying these workers a lower wage than authorized
or “benching” them isn’t the answer.

Here are some guidelines to help you follow the rules and stay out of trouble:

Follow wage requirements. Sponsoring a worker for an H-1B visa involves
various steps, including filing a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the
DOL and, once that’s approved, applying to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services (USCIS) for the actual visa. In your LCA, you must agree to pay the
worker your industry’s prevailing wage or the actual wage for that job
at the worksite, whichever is higher. These rates must be backed by a wage survey.

You’re also required to offer these foreign workers the same benefits
you provide U.S. employees. It’s important to keep the wage information
that’s in your H-1B file up-to-date to help defend your pay practices if
an H-1B visa worker complains to the DOL that they are paid less than the prevailing

Don’t bench workers. Some employers who are implementing layoffs
or other cost-cutting measures may be tempted to “bench” an H-1B worker­to
stop paying them when there is no work without actually firing them and terminating
their visa sponsorship. But this practice is prohibited, and continuing as the
worker’s sponsoring employer for visa purposes can leave you open to claims
for back wages.

The law requires you to pay a worker you sponsor at the prevailing wage until
you withdraw the visa petition. If no work is available, immediately notify
the USCIS to vacate the visa. Also, try to give H-1B visa employees as much
advance notice as possible before a layoff so they can look for another job
while still on your payroll