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November 2016 held more than one shock for many in America. Not only did the presidential election cycle come to a dramatic close, but the government introduced its new Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

First introduced in 1986, the “Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification,” must be completed for every new employee. Over time, it has been expanded from one page to two. And its instructions have grown from less than a page, to six pages for the 2013 edition to 15 pages of Instructions – more than four for the employee section alone – for the 2016 edition in English and in Spanish.

In today's post, we discuss the latest updates regarding the federal processes that authorize employment for certain undocumented persons. Thank you! – Greg

Employment. Business Concept.

Our post today provides important steps to take when employers are faced with an employee with a new SSN or Employment Authorization Document. Thank you! - Greg

By now, most hoteliers and restaurateurs know that all employers are required to prepare and maintain the Form I-9 for all of their employees. But did you realize that those forms can be a basis for financial liability if they were improperly prepared? This post will identify your risks and strategies to reduce a fine if you are ever audited by the government.

Tags: Form I-9

Now that the election is over and we know who’s running the country for the next few years, is it too much to think that we might get some kind of comprehensive immigration reform? It seems that the time is right for a big change. Presidents Bush and Obama were not successful in getting Congress to take action. President Obama recently instituted some controversial but popular reforms on his own without waiting for Congress. The fact that those actions may have helped him get re-elected has not gone unnoticed by Congressional representatives, who are likely to take action. But the question is when.

The federal government does not move at the speed of business. So it’s important to plan based on current law, not on what might get through Congress next year or even later. The legislative process can take months, and laws enacted won’t go into effect until even later, after regulations have been drafted and vetted. It’s important to understand your current options and the timelines associated with them while you urge Congress to fix the broken immigration system in the future.

Here are some ideas about options the hospitality industry can expect to have available for 2013. The letter and number designations in the sections below are the government’s codes for particular employment-based classifications.

TN Status:  Canadians and Mexicans in some professions can get employment authorization quickly

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides options for quick (often approved on-the-spot in less than an hour), inexpensive (as little as $50 in government fees), and long-lasting employment (up to three years at a time) of citizens of Canada or Mexico. The candidate must satisfy the minimally-described educational requirements for a limited group of professions, such as accountant, computer systems analyst and hotel manager. Management consultants are also possible, but don’t call someone a consultant just because there isn’t a NAFTA profession for the service you need.

Some employers don’t take the Form I-9 seriously, but they should. The government has significantly increased its audits of all kinds of employers – not just the bad guys - and are assessing hefty fines for mere technical violations. This is particularly true in the hospitality industry, which can be a target for audits and which, because of employee turnover, has seen disproportionately high fines.

Every employer knows that the government’s one-page form, the “Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification,” must be completed for every new employee. And most make sure that they get theirs completed in a timely manner. But failure to be vigilant regarding the timelines or whether the forms are completed fully or correctly can cost even the best employer thousands of dollars in fines.

Most employers consider themselves good guys. They don’t purposely seek out or hire employees who are not authorized to be employed in the U.S. But those employers are mistaken if they think that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, only audits unscrupulous employers. ICE does focus on certain industries in which there is a history of unauthorized employment, but the reality is that ICE has become very good at conducting audits, and has a team of forensic auditors on staff that it wants to keep busy. ICE does that by initiating seemingly random individual audits or nationwide actions in which up to 1,000 audits are served in a single day, providing as little as three days’ notice before documents have to be surrendered. The writing is on the wall – employers should plan for and expect a government audit of its Form I-9 documentation.

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About the Editor

Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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