U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) recently released an alert advising employers that green cards do not always have a signature. For example, USCIS will waive the signature requirement for children under the age of consent or individuals who are physically unable to provide a signature.
Interestingly, since February 2015, USCIS has been waiving the signature requirement for people entering as lawful permanent residents into the U.S. after being issued an immigrant visa abroad at a U.S. Embassy or consulate. These Permanent Resident Cards—also known as Green Cards—without signature will say “Signature Waived” on the front and back of the card where a signature would typically be located. Despite the lack of a signature, these cards serve as both proof of identify and work authorization and are acceptable documents for purposes of Form I-9 requirements.
As way of background, under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), employers are required to verify that an employee is authorized to work in the United States by completing and maintaining a completed Form I-9 for each employee hired on or after November 6, 1986. Each I-9 violation can carry a penalty of $110 to $1,100 per form. Of course, the easiest way for employers to avoid potential fines is to make sure they are complying with their I-9 obligations—before they get audited.
More than ever, employers should be particularly diligent when it comes to complying with the Form I-9 obligations. Remember, an employer faces civil and potential criminal liability for hiring undocumented workers (regardless of whether they did it knowingly or unknowingly). At the same time, an employer opens itself up to discrimination charges for not hiring newly documented workers who previously presented fraudulent documents. Being proactive and conducting internal audits will be key to minimize potentially substantial fines. Our firm is available to assist employers with their I-9 compliance obligations.