I-9 Document Alert: USCIS Revises the Employment Authorization Document

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has revised the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that is issued to certain foreign nationals who are eligible to work temporarily in the United States. The new EAD, which went into production on May 11, 2010, now has a machine-readable zone (MRZ) on the back of the card that complies with the International Civil Aviation Organization standards for secure travel documents (even though the EAD is not a travel document).  The MRZ features a fixed dimensional area containing mandatory and optional data formatted for machine reading using optical character recognition. According to the USCIS announcement, the new card design is intended to deter immigration fraud.

Old Card Design vs. New Card Design:

In the I-9 context, the EAD (or Form I-766) is an acceptable List A document, which establishes both identity and work authorization. It’s important to note, however, that the EAD is evidence oftemporary work authorization which expires at some point in time. Before that expiration occurs, employers need to reverify the employee’s continuing eligibility to the work in the US. (in Section 3 of the form) in order to avoid penalties and other issues.  Most employers storing pen & paper I-9s utilize a ticker or calendar system for reminders, while those with electronic I-9 systems enjoy automatic email reminders, dashboard prompts, and reverification reports on demand. The EAD is also noteworthy for employers participating in E-Verify, since it is one of two documents (the I-551 green card being the other) which must be photocopied and retained by the employer during the I-9 process. This photocopy requirement, outlined in the E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding, enables employers to use the E-Verify photo matching tool to compare the document against DHS records. For more information on the photo tool, please visit this brief outline here.