Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

OSC Clarifies I-9 Verification for Refugees, Asylees


In response to a query, Seema Nanda, Deputy Special Counsel of the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), clarified the application of documentation requirements related to Form I-9 work authorization verification for refugees and asylees. Eileen Scofield of Alston & Byrd asked what steps employers should take when an asylee or refugee worker presents for initial I-9 verification purposes a Form I-766, employment authorization document (EAD), that subsequently expires, considering the fact that asylees and refugees have unrestricted work authorization.

Ms. Nanda noted that when completing the I-9, a worker must select a box in Section 1 indicating his or her status. The selection applicable to “refugees and asylees—alien authorized to work” has a field that requests “expiration date, if applicable.” The I-9 instructions provide that refugees or asylees may write “N/A” in the space provided for the expiration date in Section 1. After employees complete Section 1, they must present documents evidencing identity and employment eligibility for the employer to complete Section 2. USCIS guidance provides that refugee and asylee workers are not required to present an EAD for Section 2 to complete the

I-9. They may choose to present other documents, such as a driver’s license (List B) and unrestricted Social Security card (List C), to satisfy the I-9 requirements. The I-9 instructions further provide that reverification of a worker’s employment authorization does not apply to refugees and asylees “unless they chose to present evidence of employment authorization in Section 2 that contains an expiration date and requires reverification, such as Form 1-766, Employment Authorization Document.” Thus, Ms. Nanda said, an employer that reverifies the employment authorization of an asylee or refugee who originally presented an EAD upon the EAD’s expiration is following USCIS guidance. OSC therefore would be “unlikely to find a violation of the anti-discrimination provision unless the employer somehow acted in a discriminatory manner based on national origin or citizenship status,” Ms. Nanda said.

Ms. Scofield also asked about refugee and asylee workers who are unable to present a new unexpired EAD by the date of expiration of their originally presented EAD. Ms. Nanda responded that for reverification, an employee may present unexpired documentation from either List A or List C showing he or she is still authorized to work. Employers cannot require the employee to present a List A document. Thus, she noted that a refugee or asylee who originally presented an EAD could, for example, present an unrestricted Social Security card at reverification. Furthermore, the receipt rule would allow a worker to present a receipt for a lost, stolen, or misplaced document for reverification purposes. To the extent an employer requires an employee to present a specific document, such as an unexpired EAD, for reverification purposes, it may violate the anti-discrimination provision’s prohibition against document abuse, Ms. Nanda warned.

The OSC’s response letter, which was sent on September 25, 2013, is available as PDF.

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