New York Labor and Employment Law Report Blog Posting: I-9 Compliance: A Practical Refresher on the Receipt Rules

July 27, 2011

By: Kseniya Premo

Many employers are justifiably confused as to whether they may accept a receipt notice showing that an employee has applied for a particular document that is acceptable for I-9 employment eligibility verification purposes. With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) serving an additional 1,000 Notices of Inspection to employers for I-9 audits in June 2011 alone, it is a good time to refresh your understanding about the use of receipts for initial verification, reverification and to correct errors found in the course of self-audits.

As a general rule, a receipt notice showing an application for an initial period of employment or for an extension of an expiring employment authorization period is not acceptable during the initial I-9 verification or a subsequent reverification. There are, however, exceptions. An employer must accept a receipt during the I-9 process in place of one of the otherwise accepted documents – known as a List A, List B or a List C document – set forth on the instructions accompanying the Form I-9 in the following circumstances:

1.         Any employee may present a receipt showing that an application for a replacement List A, B, or C document has been submitted because the document was lost, stolen, or damaged. The receipt notice serves to verify the individual’s employment authorization for 90 days from the date of hire, or, in the case of reverification, the date the employment authorization expires. Upon the expiration of the receipt period, the employee must present the actual document for which the receipt was obtained.

2.         An employee who is a lawful permanent resident may present a receipt that constitutes an arrival card which is a portion of Form I-94 or Form I-94A which contains a temporary I-551 stamp (and photograph). This temporary I-551 stamp placed on the I-94 card, which is found within the employee’s passport, is considered the receipt. This type of receipt is considered valid as long as it is submitted for I-9 purposes before the expiration date listed on the temporary I-551 stamp. If there is no listed expiration date on the I-551 stamp, the receipt expires within one year from the date of issue.

3.         An employee who is a refugee may present a receipt that constitutes Form I-94 or Form I-94A with an unexpired refugee admission stamp. The receipt notice serves to verify the individual’s employment authorization for 90 days from the date of hire, or, in the case of reverification, the date the employment authorization expires. Upon the expiration of the receipt period, the employee must present an unexpired employment authorization document (i.e., Form I-766, Form I-688B) or an unrestricted Social Security Card combined with a valid List B document.

4.         Certain employees who hold non-immigrant visas and who are authorized to work for a specific employer incident to status (e.g., E, H, L, O, P, and TN) may continue to work for their sponsoring employers up to 240 days following the expiration of their authorized period of stay. In order for this rule to apply, the application or petition for an extension of status must be filed in good faith and before the expiration of the original status. In these cases, a USCIS receipt showing that a timely extension application or petition was filed (i.e., Form I-797) must be accepted for reverification purposes.

5.         Individuals holding valid H-1B visas for another employer may “port” or work for another employer once the new or prospective employer has timely filed an H-1B portability petition on behalf of the individual. An application is generally considered “filed” once it is accepted for processing by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A copy of the Receipt Notice for the filed H-1B portability petition, together with the copy of the alien’s unexpired I-94 card can be accepted as evidence of employment authorization for employment verification purposes. Once the H-1B portability petition is approved, the employer should update the I-9 by reviewing the passport with the newly issued H-1B Approval Notice for the employee at issue.

6.         In April 2008, USCIS issued a rule specifically pertaining to F-1 students. Under the rule, if a student in lawful F-1 status is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting a change of status (from F-1 to H-1B), the student’s status is extended, along with any grant of optional practical training (“OPT”) work authorization, until October 1. In these cases, the employer may accept the expired OPT work authorization document combined with an endorsed Form I-20 that demonstrates that the student’s employment work authorization – OPT – has been extended and is still valid, and the USCIS Receipt Notice (Form I-797) showing receipt of the timely filed H-1B Petition.

Employers should also be aware of the following additional considerations:

  • A receipt showing an employee has applied for an employment authorization document – whether it is for an initial grant of work authorization or a renewal – cannot be accepted as sufficient evidence of work authorization for I-9 purposes.
  • A receipt is never acceptable for employment lasting less than 3 days.
  • An employer’s failure to honor a receipt in one of the circumstances or exceptions set forth above may constitute document abuse and is prohibited under the Immigration and Nationality Act.