U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that administers the Form I-9 employment eligibility verification process, has just issued an updated I-9 “Handbook for Employers M-274.” The updated handbook, which incorporates mainly technical changes that were made to the I-9 in January of this year, comes on the heels of a surge in I-9 audits conducted in fiscal year (FY) 2019 (October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2019) by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the immigration enforcement arm of DHS.

The I-9 form, which employers must complete for all new hires and store for a minimum of three years, can present a compliance minefield for employers. The M-274 Handbook is designed to provide step-by-step guidance to navigating the Form I-9 compliance process. Employers are well advised to carefully follow the steps presented in the M-274 Handbook to avoid potential liability for failure to verify the employment eligibility of their new hires.

Lest there be any doubt, according to enforcement statistics contained within FY 2021 budget request documents prepared by DHS, ICE initiated 6,456 I-9 audits in FY 2019, up from the 5,981 audits conducted in FY 2018 and drastically higher than the 1,360 I-9 audits conducted in FY 2017. Overall, ICE more than quadrupled the number of worksite investigations conducted last year as compared to FY 2017.

The 100-page updated Handbook for Employers M-274 with instructions for completing and storing the Form I-9 is available for download on USCIS’s website.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.