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USCIS is using new I-9 forms starting January, are you in compliance!?

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) January 2017 brings changes to the I-9 form, alongside the increased penalties for non-compliance regarding their completion and retention just enacted in August 2016. Now’s the time to take a look at what’s different.

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What’s new?

With January 2017 bringing changes to the I-9 form, alongside the increased penalties for non-compliance regarding their completion and retention just enacted in August 2016, it’s a good time to take a look at what’s different, as well as the possible ramifications if you’re not completing them correctly.

Changes to the form I-9

The current I-9 form doesn’t look like a technically complex document, but it’s got the potential for both the new employee and the HR professional assisting them to make costly mistakes. The new revisions attempt to address many of the sources of common errors, all of which can lead to fines for the employers. Revisions include:

Information Verification Assistance: Select fields of the new I-9 form will have tools in place to ensure that numerical information (such as Social Security numbers or dates) are entered correctly, by using calendars and drop-down menus to provide information. QR codes are also now generated for each form once printed to allow for ease of tracking documents in audits.

Document Aids: The new I-9 will have instructions embedded within the document to assist users in knowing exactly what to do. These will be supported by intuitive spots that allow the user to access the instructions on demand, as well as print and clear the form, as desired. HR professionals will appreciate the addition of an area that’s solely dedicated for the entry of required information, such as Temporary Protected Status or Optional Practical Training extensions, which is now currently placed in the margins, lacking a permanent place.

Substantive Changes:  There are several substantive changes in addition to the cosmetic ones.

Section 1 changes to provide additional space to enter the names of multiple preparers and/or translators, along with an affidavit statement if the employee didn’t use any assistance in completing their I-9. Additionally, the requirement that employees use all other names has been changed to only reflect the need to provide all other last names. Finally, immigrants are no longer required to provide their I-94 Form number and their foreign passport information.

Section 2 provides a new “Citizenship/Immigration Status” field.

Instructions have also been separated from the form. These are still required to be provided to the employee when filling out the I-9 form. Although there are a great number of electronic enhancements to the form, it does not yet meet the definition of an electronic I-9 as found under the law. Employers will still be required to have the new employees complete the form, print it, and obtain a hard signature.

Why do I care?

Because ignorance is expensive, and lack of compliance with this requirement can not only be costly, but can prevent your business from being able to bid for government contracts or receive federal benefits.  Not enough?

If employers responsible for ensuring the completion of the forms are found to have falsified documents or otherwise acted in bad faith, you can go to jail.

How expensive? New penalty schedules placed into effect by the Justice Department raise the minimum fines for paperwork violations from $110 to $216 and maximums to ten times that amount, jumping from $1,100 to $2,156. These penalties are for each incorrect I-9 form. For those companies which choose to knowingly hire undocumented workers, first offender penalties now range from $539 to $4,313 per employee. For companies who have done this more than once, or who show a pervasive pattern of hiring ineligible employees, fines now range from $6,469 to $21,563 for each ineligible employee hired.

“It is more important now than ever for companies big and small to make sure they have effective policies and procedures in place for properly ‘I-9ing’ employees during the onboarding process,” said Mitch Wexler, an immigration attorney speaking to the Society for Human Resource Management on the issue.  “This includes a regular review of existing I-9s and training staff that touch this critical function.”

Ok, so that sounds bad, but what’s the real risk? In 2013, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency responsible for enforcement of the correct completion of I-9 forms, levied over $15 million in fines to nearly 700 companies for their lack of compliance, along with the arrest of 179 employers for their complicity in falsifying or incorrectly completing the I-9 forms.

This is a problem that can quickly spiral out of containment for you once an audit happens, even for seemingly minor clerical mistakes.

What should I do?

While the completion of the I-9 document may seem like a trivial detail, it’s obviously one that can cause you to meet a significant pain point if not done correctly and in time.

Know Your Responsibilities
Knowing the basic requirements and the retention schedules will go a long way towards ensuring that you don’t run afoul of the law. Let’s review:

  • You have to do it: I-9 forms are required to be completed at any time you hire someone in exchange for wages or items of value (such as food or lodging). The requirement is applicable to employees hired after November 6, 1986. For employees hired before that date and who have been continuous in their employment and the expectation of continued employment, the requirement doesn’t apply.
  • You have to do it fairly quickly: The I-9 form must be completed in a timely fashion. Employees must complete Section 1 at the time of hire, which is the first day of employment. They can fill out Section 1 at the time that you make the job offer, and they accept but not sooner. As the employer, you’ve got to review the employee’s document selection from Columns A, B, or C and complete Section 2 within three business days of hire. This isn’t negotiable. If they can’t provide you those documents, or if you can’t get to Section 2 within three business days, they shouldn’t be working. If you’re new employee is a hire for fewer than three business days, then Sections 1 and 2 must be completed at the time of hire.
  • You have to know what documents are required: The employee’s responsible for showing you original, unexpired documents that establish their identity and employment authorization. The employee has the right to choose what documents they present to you. They must provide one from List A (identity and employment authorization), or one from List B (identity only) and one from List C (employment authorization only). For E-Verify participants, only List B documents with a photograph are acceptable.

This process needs to be done face-to-face with the new employee; federal regulations require that the new employee be physically present with the examiner during the review of documents.

All documents presented must be authentic and unexpired. You may copy the documents that the employee provides to you, but you must do it for all of your employees, regardless of their citizenship status or nation of origin.

  • You have to keep them handy: The I-9 form must be kept separately from the employee’s personnel file, and must be retained for as long as the employee works for the company. Once they’ve moved on, the retention rules shift; you must determine the later of these two conditions: three years after hire date, or one year after the day that the employee terminates employment. I-9 forms can be maintained in multiple formats (paper or electronic), but must be accessible for review and audit.

Don’t be sketchy

Acting in bad faith is a quick path to see fines increased to the maximum and run the real risk of going to jail. If you find yourself in a situation that tempts you to alter dates, forge signatures, or hire those without proper documentation, think long and hard.

While a federal audit might be years in coming, or never come at all, is this the type of business practice that you want to maintain? Is that who you are?

Be careful of allowing even small ethical lapses slide into your business practices; what’s a small intentional oversight in this corner today can easily be spread to others tomorrow.

Furthermore, that teaches your employees that it’s acceptable to cut corners, and once that attitude festers and takes root, it’s nearly impossible to predict the amounts of damage that it can cause.

Train, train, train and audit, audit, audit

Make certain that the trained staff who handles these documents are also well-trained on their responsibilities and the proper procedures to take when completing them. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department has wonderful training aids to assist in ensuring that your employees know what to do, and the Society for Human Resource Management is a resource for FAQ and good practical, in-the-trenches advice on pitfalls and scenarios that HR professionals face daily.

Beyond training, ensure that you take the time as a part of your annual HR calendar to set a time to perform a self-audit of current and stored I-9 files.

By making certain that you’re well trained on how to properly complete these forms, and taking the time on a regular basis to self-identify and correct any mistakes on forms, you’ll be moving towards full compliance and have nothing to fear in case of that eventual audit.

#I9

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Business Entrepreneur

Is this normal (you wonder about your business)?

(ENTREPRENEURIALISM) It can be lonely not being able to openly ask potentially embarrassing questions about your business – there’s a way to do it anonymously…

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Entrepreneurialism is wildly rewarding – you are fully in control of the direction of your company, and you’re solving the world’s problems. But it’s also isolating when you’re not sure if what you’re experiencing is normal.

Sure, there’s Google, news networks (like ours), and professional connections to help you navigate, but sometimes you just want to know if something simple you’re seeing is normal.

Is Instagram Stories really where it’s at? Probably not if you’re a consultant.

Is it normal for an employee to attempt to re-negotiate their salary on their first day? Nope, but how do you keep the desirable employee without being bullied into new terms?

Do all entrepreneurs spend their first year in business as exhausted as a new parent? Sometimes.

You have questions, and together, we can share our experiences.

We have a brand new Facebook Group that is already wildly engaging, active, and you’d be amazed at how selflessly helpful people are – and we invite you to be one of them.

Want to anonymously ask a question about something you’re unsure is normal or not?

Click here to submit your question, and we’ll select as many as possible to discuss in the Facebook Group!

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Business Entrepreneur

Amazon on a collision course with politicians as they strengthen their monopoly

(BUSINESS) E-commerce has come a long way in the last decade, specifically led by Amazon, but are their controlling ways putting them on a collision course with regulators?

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In March, Amazon stopped replenishing weekly purchase orders for tens of thousands of vendors in a move that has stirred up some trouble. The tech giant has once flexed its power over first-party sellers over their platform. And it’s not the first time.

Amazon originally sent out to vendors as an automated message citing the hold up in orders as a technical glitch. The following day, vendors were told the change was permanent. The affected vendors were categorized as making $10 million or less in sales volume per year and not having managers at Amazon. Vendors selling specialized goods that were difficult to ship were also a factor.

The effects can have remarkable effects on the market as Amazon’s algorithms decide who is able to sell what to whom via their near-ubiquitous platform. According to John Ghiorso, the CEO of Orca Pacific, an Amazon agency for consultation and manufacturers representatives, the decision is driven by financial data such as total revenue, profitability, and catalog size.

In a response from an Amazon spokesperson, the change was made in order to improve value, convenience, and selection for customers. The mass termination of purchase orders and the delayed response from Amazon herald the transition to the One Vendor system, putting vendors in an exclusive relationship with Amazon. This system will merge the current Seller Central and Vendor Central.

Amazon’s message is loud and clear: they will do what’s in their best interest to mitigate the market for their convenience. One may be reminded of the anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft in 2001.

The lack of warning didn’t do them any favors either.

While smaller businesses need to change for Amazon’s program, first-party business will revolve around larger brands like Nike with whom Amazon is maintaining a relationship.

Despite the streamlined platform Amazon is going for, the company wields power over vendors and customers alike. Capitalism is one thing, but monopolies are a whole other ball game, and politicians are finally paying attention.

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Business Entrepreneur

Culture Codes is the guide you need for company culture questions

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) One of the biggest sellers of a company to a prospective employee or customer is their culture. Culture Codes has compiled some the biggest companies cultures in convenient decks for you to study and align with.

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Organizational culture is a hot button of conversation. While a variety of definitions exist, one way of defining Culture is the way businesses exist – a summary of values, rituals, and organizational mythology that helps employees make sense of the organization they work in.

Organizational cultures are often reflected in Mission, Vision, and Value statements of organizations.

What many entrepreneurs or new organization struggle with as well, is how to create a culture from the ground up. What kinds of statements and values do they advocate? What are areas of focus? Who are our competitors and what can we do to create a service, product, or quality advantage?

Building a strong culture can be challenging, but a good place to start is looking at the best cultures around.

A new resource by Tettra, Culture Codes, has everything you could want to know on different companies their cultures available for you to study up.

Over 40 companies employing over 280,000 employees have created culture decks and collected core values and mission statements. Companies like Spotify, Netflix, LinkedIn, and NASA have all contributed information.

This information is great for young companies or entrepreneurs to start building a schema about what kind of culture they want to create.

Or existing established companies can look towards peers and competitors and help decide what statements they want to engage culture change on.

For job seekers, Tettra can help potential employees gauge if they are a fit for an organization, or discover that maybe an organization they dream about working for has a culture they may not jive with. And perhaps most valuably, transparently showing off your culture and allowing it to be compared means that organizations can better compete in the talent market.

Recruiters should be obsessed with talking about culture – because it keeps people in the door.

The reasons why people leave employment: work/ life balance, poor treatment, lack of training, or relationship issues with a supervisor or boss; in many ways are a by-product of organizational culture. If you want to compete in the talent market, make culture a selling point and show it off in everything you do.

Even consumer’s benefit from learning about an organization’s culture – values that indicate a commitment to excellence in ethics make consumers feel good about supporting an organization.

It pays to have a good culture. I encourage you to head over to tetra.co/culture-codes and see how companies like Etsy are keeping it real, every day.

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