Employer Responsibilities and Final Thoughts
U.S. employers should try to verify that those they hire, in any capacity, are lawfully in the U.S. in a status consonant with the activities proposed, if only by checking their immigration papers. If the alien is an employee, there is a formal obligation to complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form within three days of hire. If the alien is an independent contractor, no I-9 is required. While in theory this suggests that you do not have to worry about the work authorization of someone who will not be your employee, determining whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor is tricky, especially since USCIS, Internal Revenue Service, and Department of Labor have different definitions of the term.
Employers who fail to comply with the I-9 paperwork requirements when hiring employees can be subject to civil penalties of $100 to $1000 per violation. Employers who commit "document fraud" by, for instance, completing an I-9 knowing the employee is not authorized to work, can be subject to civil fines of $250 to $5000 per offense. Employers who knowingly hire or continue to employ aliens not authorized to work are subject to civil fines ranging from $250 to $2000 per worker for the first offense, $2000 to $5000 per worker for the second offense, and $3000 to $10,000 per worker beyond that. Criminal penalties may be imposed.
Successfully navigating U.S. immigration law and procedures requires a combination of technical knowledge of the tools of the trade, a healthy dose of common sense, and a bit of luck. We hope that this guide has given you enough of the former, leaving you, the reader, responsible for the common sense, and kismet for the luck.
Indeed, the best of luck to you!