The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was signed into law in 1986. The purpose of this law was to amend, revise, reform and reassess the status of unauthorized immigrants which was set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

It was the first legislative attempt to comprehensively address the issue of unauthorized immigration. It included sanctions against employers for hiring undocumented migrants, more border enforcement as well as a more expansive legalization program.

This bill gave unauthorized immigrants the opportunity to apply and gain legal status if they met certain requirements and the status of those who applied was eventually determined by the U.S. Attorney General. The Immigration and Naturalization Service is responsible for implementing this law.

What are Some of the Requirements for Employers?

The IRCA imposes certain requirements on employers such as:

  • Prohibiting employers from knowingly engaging in certain actions such as hiring, recruiting, or referring for a fee any person who is unauthorized to work; and
  • Requiring employers to confirm their employees’ current immigration statutes.

Employers are also required to verify both the identity and employment eligibility of employees such as:

  • Regular, temporary workers;
  • Temporary agency personnel; and
  • Student employees

Employers are required to complete and retain a one-page form which documents this verification. This form is called INS Form I-9 and it is a requirement for all employees working in the United States. Form 1-9 requires the employer to:

  • Look at the employee’s forms of identification to make sure that they are not false or invalid;
  • Have the employee sign the I-9 form;
  • Make sure that the form is properly completed and legible;
  • Complete the verification section as well as record which documents were presented; and
  • Confirm that their employee is eligible for employment by signing the form.

The failure to verify a new employee’s identity and employment will result in the termination of employment for that employee.

What are Some of the Requirements for Employees and Applicants?

Regarding the Form I-9, employees have to present valid form of identification which establishes the employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States. Among the documents which establish both identity and eligibility are:

  • Certificate of U.S. citizenship;
  • Current U.S. passport;
  • Certificate of naturalization;
  • Unexpired foreign passport which contains an unexpired stamp allowing employment;
  • Temporary Resident Card; and/or
  • Employment Authorization Card

Employees can also present documents which establish only identity or documents that establish only eligibility. Documents that establish only identity include:

  • State driver’s license or identification card;
  • School or university identification;
  • Voter registration card;
  • U.S. military identification card;
  • Military dependent’s identification card;
  • Identification cards which are issued by federal, state or local government agencies; and/or
  • Driver’s license issued in Canada.

Among the documents that establish only employment eligibility are:

  • Social Security Card;
  • Birth Certificate which is issued by a state, county or municipal authority with an official seal;
  • Unexpired INS employment authorization;
  • Unexpired reentry permit;
  • Unexpired Refugee Travel Document;
  • Birth certificate issued by the Department of State; and/or
  • Identification used in the U.S. by the resident citizen.

In order to gain legal status, applicants have to prove that they lived and maintained a continuous physical presence in the U.S. since January 1st 1982, that they possess a clean criminal record and they also have to provide proof of registration with the Selective Service. Also, applicants have to meet minimal knowledge requirements in U.S. history, government and the English language or they have to pursue a course of study which was approved by the Attorney General.

After applicants were given legal status or deemed temporary lawful residents, they were disqualified from receiving all types of public welfare assistance for five years. However, the rules for applications and welfare assistance did not apply to Cuban or Haitian immigrants.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Employers and their employees need to make sure that their employment contract is in compliance with the standards of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). If you have any questions related to immigration laws, it may be useful to consult an experienced immigration attorney. Immigration attorneys can handle any issue related to documentation or work eligibility and they can also answer any specific questions which are related to the IRCA.