The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed two rules last week that are intended to help businesses comply with current legal hiring practices and reduce the employment of unauthorized aliens.

The first proposal would allow U.S. businesses to digitize their I-9 employment forms, which are used to verify eligibility to work in the United States. The second proposed regulation outlines the  steps that U.S. businesses must follow after receiving “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration, or from DHS.

Typically, when a worker’s Social Security number does not match the worker’s name on tax or employment eligibility documents, the Federal government sends out a “no-match” letter asking for the discrepancy to be resolved. In fact, out of 250 million wage reports the Social Security Administration receives each year; about 10 percent belong to employees whose names don’t match their Social Security numbers.

The “no match” regulation also describes “safe-harbor” procedures for employers to use in dealing with such a letter. If regulations are followed in good faith, these procedures would provide certainty that DHS will not find, based on a receipt of a “no-match” letter, the employer in violation of their legal obligations.

Employers have also expressed their frustration with being required to keep paper forms or to store the forms on microfilm or microfiche when all other aspects of their record-keeping have been computerized. The interim regulation would give employers the option to sign and store Forms I-9 electronically.  

These proposed regulations are now subject to a 60-day public comment period, although the I-9 regulation will become effective on an interim basis as soon as it is published.  

“Most businesses want to do the right thing when it comes to employing legal workers,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.  “These new regulations will give U.S. businesses the necessary tools to increase the likelihood that they are employing workers consistent with our laws. They also help us to identify and prosecute employers who are blatantly abusing our immigration system.”

As Congress continues to consider comprehensive immigration reform, DHS continues to urge them to increase the authority of the SSA to share information about Social Security “no match” letters with DHS worksite enforcement agents. This information would allow DHS to learn which employers had received “no match” letters from SSA. It also assists investigators in identifying companies with the highest rate of immigration fraud.

“Identifying businesses that are habitually flagged for submitting mismatched Social Security numbers would bolster our worksite enforcement efforts,” added Secretary Chertoff.  “Congressional approval of this legislation is critical to ensuring that U.S. businesses hire legal workers.”

Chertoff also noted that fixing the problem of illegal immigration requires a comprehensive solution that must include a temporary worker program. A temporary worker program would replace illegal workers with lawful taxpayers, help us hold employers accountable, and let us know who is in our country and why they are here.

For more information, from DHS, go to http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=5684

Department of Homeland Security