By Linda Jackman

I often see employers obtaining a W-4 from a new employee but they overlook the importance and legal requirement of also obtaining an I-9 & proper I.D. from a new employee.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) requires employers to verify employees’ eligibility for employment in the U.S.  Employers face stiff penalties for knowingly hiring individuals not eligible for employment. The key provisions of the law that affect employers are employer sanctions, antidiscrimination, and verification of eligibility.

Employer Sanctions

It is illegal to knowingly hire or recruit for a fee aliens who lack authorization to work in the U.S. Penalties for hiring illegal aliens range from $375 for a first offense to $16,000 for a third. In addition, employers could face criminal penalties if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines that your company has a pattern of such violations.

Verification of Eligibility

The burden of verifying that any employee (regardless of nationality) is eligible to work in the United States falls on employers. Your company must check the employment eligibility of all new employees hired after the law was enacted (Nov 6, 1986).

By the first day of work, the new hire must fill out section 1 of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Within three days of the employee’s first day of work, the employer must review the employee’s documents and complete Section 2 of Form I-9. Form I-9 must be retained for the longer of three years from the date of hire or one year from termination.

Form I-9 requires that the new hires document their identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. The Instructions for Form I-9 list documents that employees can use to document their identity and eligibility to work. You must examine and attest on From I-9 that the new hire’s documents appear genuine.

It is not required of an employee to show their Social Security Card as identification on the I-9, however, they will be required to provide the social security number on the W-4. It is necessary to have the correct social security number so that the employee’s withheld taxes are credited to the correct individual.  Also, incorrect SSNs may cause the employee’s new hire file to be rejected when we submit it to the State. It can become costly to the employer if tax time rolls around and the employee discovers he/she provided the wrong social security number and then their W2 has to be corrected and filings amended.  The minimum cost incurred for creating a W-2c after we have filed them is $50.

We are here to help.  Please let us know if you have any questions on Form W-4 and Form I-9 & verifying the employee’s identification for eligibility of employment.


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