New Form I-9 Must Be Used Beginning January 22, 2017
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has released an updated version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The new Form I-9, dated 11/14/2016 N, will become mandatory on Jan. 22, 2017, replacing the version dated 03/08/2013 N, which may continue to be used until Jan. 21, 2017. Under federal immigration law, employers must maintain a properly completed Form I-9 for all employees hired in the U.S. after Nov. 6, 1986. Employers may access the new Form and its Instructions at: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-9.pdf. The most important change to the Form is that it can now be completed electronically, which may decrease errors. If you use the electronic Form I-9 on the government website, you must still print it out and have it signed by both the employee and employer. The Manual for Employers (M-274) is in the process of being updated.
New Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, Must Be Used as of December 23, 2016
On Tuesday, December 13, 2016, USCIS announced the upcoming release of a new version of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization (citizenship). The new version, which became available December 22, 2016 must be used in all Applications filed or postmarked on or after December 23, 2016. USCIS will reject applications containing any earlier version of Form N-400 after that date. The new Form N-400 may be found at https://www.uscis.gov/n-400.
Changes in Government Filing Fees
USCIS has increased its filing fees effective December 23, 2016. This is the first time in six years that fees have increased. USCIS is almost entirely funded by the fees paid by applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits. USCIS has indicated that this increase is necessary to recover the full cost of services provided by USCIS. Applications and Petitions postmarked or filed on or after December 23 must include the new fees or USCIS will not be able to accept them. We expect an increase in audits and investigations by USCIS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) with this influx of funds.
More Government Fee Increases!
Citing inflation adjustments, immigration-related fines recently rose as well, resulting in the increase of penalty fines anywhere from 35 percent to 96 percent. The two main areas of immigration fines affected are (1) the employment of individuals without work authorization and (2) Form I-9 paperwork violations.
Prior to the increase, the employment of a single unauthorized worker in the first instance would result in a fine ranging from $375 to $3,200. The increased penalty now results in a first-offender fine of anywhere from $539 to $4,313. Repeat offenses, which originally resulted in a penalty of $4,300 to $16,000, will now result in a fine of $6,469 to $21,563.
Form I-9 paperwork violations will see an even greater percentage increase in fines – even if your entire workforce is lawfully employed! While violations initially resulted in employer fines of $110 to $1,100 per violation, this number will essentially double to $216 to $2,156 in each instance. With this change, systemic I-9 errors for even midsize employers could easily result in a $50,000 fine. All the more reason to put an internal I-9 audit on your list of New Year’s Resolutions!
Immigration Changes Under the New Administration
President-Elect Trump has promised many changes to the existing immigration laws and policies. However, we do not yet know which of these changes may be implemented or when such changes could occur. Several of his Cabinet-level appointments are known for their anti-immigrant views, but we anticipate that the business community may be able to influence the government in order to change the law to meet its needs. In particular, employers with employees in TN NAFTA status (Canadian and Mexican professionals), E-3 Treaty status (Australian professionals) and H-1B1 status (professionals from Singapore and Chile) may be at risk of losing these employees if the trade agreements on which these categories are based cease to exist.
We will keep you posted on changes in immigration law and policy as they develop over the coming months.