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New I-9 Handbook Addresses H-1B Portability and Nonimmigrant Extensions of Status - February 23, 2011

USCIS recently issued new guidance for employers on the process of completing Form I-9 (employment eligibility verification) by issuing an updated version of The Handbook for Employers.


Some of the most important changes address the issue of "portability," or transferring an H-1B employee to another employer, and pending extension of status petitions. The Handbook now provides that an employee in valid H-1B status who ports to a new employer can begin to work with the new employer upon filing an H-1B petition with USCIS. Previously, the H-1B employee would have to wait to receive an I-797 receipt notice prior to beginning work with the new employer, which could take weeks or even months to arrive. With respect to extensions, the Handbook provides that an employee with a timely filed extension of status petition - in other words, a petition filed before the employee's work authorization expires - is eligible for continued work authorization for up to 240 days beyond the expiration date of that authorization, as long as the extension remains pending. The Handbook provides a detailed explanation on how to complete the Form I-9 and the documentation to be attached for individuals in H, E, L, O, and P status.

Employers are encouraged to consult the new Handbook when reviewing their company's I-9 compliance procedures. All employers must complete Form I-9 for every worker hired after November 6, 1986.  Those employers with multiple foreign-national employees are encouraged to establish formal I-9 audit and compliance plans.