Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

USCIS Discusses Effects of Invalid Puerto Rico Birth Certificates on I-9 Process


On July 1, 2010, the Vital Statistics Office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico began issuing new, more secure certified copies of birth certificates to U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico because of a new Puerto Rico birth certificate law. After September 30, 2010, all certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010, will become invalid. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) noted in recent guidance that employers should not re-verify the employment eligibility of existing employees who presented a certified copy of a Puerto Rico birth certificate for I-9 purposes and whose employment eligibility was verified on the I-9 before October 1, 2010.

USCIS noted that the new law does not affect the U.S. citizenship status of individuals born in Puerto Rico. It only affects the validity of certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates. The guidance notes:

New Employees

  • All certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates are acceptable for Form I-9 purposes through September 30, 2010.
  • Beginning October 1, 2010, only certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates issued on or after July 1, 2010, are acceptable for Form I-9 purposes.
  • Beginning October 1, 2010, if an employee presents for List C a birth certificate issued by the Vital Statistics Office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the employer must look at the date the certified copy of the birth certificate was issued to ensure that it is still valid.

Existing Employees

Employers must not re-verify the employment eligibility of existing employees who presented a certified copy of a Puerto Rico birth certificate for Form I-9 purposes and whose employment eligibility was verified on Form I-9 prior to October 1, 2010.

Federal Contractors

Employers awarded a federal contract that contains the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause have special Form I-9 rules for the verification of existing employees.

  • If completing new Forms I-9 for existing employees, certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates are acceptable as a List C document under the following circumstances:
    • Prior to October 1, 2010, all certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates are acceptable for Form I-9 purposes.
    • Beginning October 1, 2010, only certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates issued on or after July 1, 2010, are acceptable for Form I-9 purposes.
  • If updating existing Forms I-9, an employer must not ask an employee to present a new certified copy of a Puerto Rico birth certificate if the employee presented a certified copy of a birth certificate issued in Puerto Rico before July 1, 2010 that was valid and acceptable for the Form I-9 at the time it was presented.

See the E-Verify Supplemental Guide for Federal Contractors for more information on E-Verify and FAR requirements.

How will this law affect the retention of documents with Form I-9?

The new law prohibits Puerto Rico employers from keeping original certified copies of birth certificates issued in Puerto Rico but allows employers to keep photocopies of these documents.  Employers who choose to make photocopies of documents their employees present when completing Form I-9 must do so for all employees, regardless of national origin or citizenship status.

Resource: The USCIS guidance, released on September 9, 2010.
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