DANGEROUS TOOLS OF THE TRADE: WHY SCRIBBLING, BLACK MARKERS, AND WHITE OUT ARE “NO-NOs” ON THE I-9
Most HR professionals and hiring personnel want their I-9 forms to be perfect. HR professionals and hiring personnel who act as I-9 Administrators handling completion of I-9s employment eligibility forms for an employer are meticulous and conscientious by nature. When a mistake in filling out the form occurs, the natural inclination is to mark out the error thoroughly. The usual thinking goes: While striking through the information might get the job done, a thick black mark would be better. No, a scribble obliterating the miswrite is even more thorough. Better yet, why don’t I just use white out to completely hide the error? Pat myself on the back for an HR task well done. Right? NO! Why?
WHY SHOULD EMPLOYERS CARE ABOUT PROPER DOCUMENTATIONS OF CORRECTIONS ON I-9S?
Once an I-9 Administrator understands the policy behind no scribbling, no black marker, and no white out the Administrator will never make this classic “mistake” again. The I-9 forms are actually federal affidavits signed under penalty of perjury subject to prosecution by the federal government (under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security). The purpose of the form in the eyes of the government is to establish each employee’s identity and right to work in the United States. The government is laser-focused on this issue, and, since 2009, is quick to use the enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security (known as “ICE” – Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to investigate and prosecute employers who are unable to prove that each employee is who they claim, and is authorized to work in this country. As you know, liability now can range from several hundred dollars per I-9, to millions of dollars and federal prison time for owners, management, and I-9 Administrators.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CORRECT ERRORS ON AN I-9?
If the form information written in error is obliterated by scribble, black marker, or white out, then the Department of Homeland Security agent investigating the I-9s cannot see what was written previously on the form. In some cases, ICE may presume the worst, including bad intent, or knowledge of an immigration violation. A much better practice is drawing a single straight line through any error on the form, and then initialing and dating the form. It is important to remember that Section One corrections need to be initialed and dated by the employee, and Section Two and Three corrections initialed and dated by the I-9 Administrator. Procedures like this should be part of your Corporate Immigration Plan, Policies and Procedures based on ICE Best Practices and should be part of the I-9 Admnistrator training before she or he begins administering I-9s to new workers. If the employer is ever subject to an audit by ICE, the ICE officer can see that the employer has nothing to hide … no scribbles obliterating possibly fraudulent backdating of employment dates, or changing of employee names … you get the picture. So sometimes less “thoroughness” actually is more.
Posted by Mira Mdivani Business Immigration Attorney MDIVANI CORPORATE IMMIGRATION FIRM