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Becoming Legal : A guide to the new immigration law in the workplace : What the Law Says About the Workplace : Highlights of the New Law

June 30, 1987

The new immigration law forbids the hiring of people who are not citizens, legal residents or foreigners expressly authorized to work in the United States.

The law provides for civil and criminal sanctions for anyone who knowingly employs, recruits, or refers for a fee any person without legal documentation.

The same sanctions apply to any employer who knowingly continues to keep on the payroll any person without immigration papers who was employed after Nov. 6, 1986, the date on which the law was signed.

The sanctions, however, do not apply to employers who maintain on their payrolls workers--legal or illegal--employed before Nov. 6, 1986.

To check compliance with the law, the government requires nearly all employers to verify the legal status of newly hired workers.

Filing the Key Form I-9

In order to enforce these provisions, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has designed a special form, I-9--Employment Eligibility Verification Form.

This form must be completed and signed by the employer and the employee, under penalty of perjury, and/or the person assisting the employee, whether a translator or guardian.

The one-page form is made up of three parts: one applies to the employee; another, if necessary, applies to a translator if the employee does not understand English, or a guardian in the case of a minor; and a third applies to the employer.

If the applicant clearly does not have authorization to work in this country, he or she should not be hired.

The Grandfather Clause

Any employee employed before Nov. 6, 1986, does not have to submit identification documents or proof of work authorization to his current employer. Therefore, neither he nor the employer have to complete I-9 forms. The INS suggests that this type of employee be identified as a "grandfather clause employee." This employee will not lose this classification if he or she:

Leaves work and returns after a period of study, illness or pregnancy;

Relocates with the same employer;

Is out on strike or on layoff and has a chance to be employed again by the same employer;

Was promoted or demoted within the same company;

Took advantage of an authorized leave.

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