In December 2009, the government of Puerto Rico passed new sweeping legislation that, effective July 1, 2010, invalidates all Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010. A common reaction to this news is to ask the obvious. Why the drastic change? For an answer, we looked to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) fact sheet, which provides an overview of the rationale behind the new legislation. In brief, it appears that the goal of this mandate is to reduce fraud and identity theft.
So how does the new statute impact the I-9 process? At the time of this post, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has yet to officially release published instructions to employers concerning this matter. However, Tracker has learned on good authority that according to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service – Verification Branch the following guidance is expected to be included in the next revision of the DHS I-9 Handbook for Employers (M-274):
Beginning July 1, 2010, all certified Puerto Rico birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 will be invalid. The statute also prohibits, as of January 1, 2010, public or private entities from retaining [original Puerto Rican] birth certificates.
After July 1, 2010, the Vital Statistics Office of Puerto Rico will begin issuing a new type of certified birth certificate to citizens from Puerto Rico. The new certificates will be acceptable List C documents for Form I-9 purposes.
The prohibition on retaining Puerto Rico birth certificates does not prevent employers from retaining photocopies or electronic copies of these certificates during the Form I-9 process, if they choose to do so. The statute only prohibits retention of actual certified birth certificates. Employers who choose to retain copies of employee documentation must do so for all employees, regardless of national origin or citizenship status, to avoid discriminatory practices.
For further information about E-Verify or Form I-9 employers may call the E-Verify Customer Support at 1-888-464-4218 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracker spoke with a DHS E-Verify Customer Support Representative who confirmed these guidelines, with the caveat that the exact language is subject to change pending approval by the DHS policy review board. The DHS Representative also verified that a receipt showing that the employee has applied for, but not yet received, a new Puerto Rican birth certificate is acceptable for completing Section 2 of a Form I-9 under the “receipt rule.” As a reminder, in certain circumstances, receipts for application of a replacement document can be accepted in lieu of original documents in the I-9 process, in which case an employee must present the replacement document to complete Form I-9 within 90 days from date of hire or, for reverification, the date employment authorization expires. You can find more information on the “receipt rule” in the M-274 Handbook.
Additional information on the new Birth Certificate law is available on the PRFAA website. In order to obtain a new birth certificate, individuals born in Puerto Rico will need to submit a completed Birth Certificate Application Form and remit any applicable fees to the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Record after the new law takes effect.
Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Information provided through this website should never replace the need for involving informed counsel on your employment and immigration issues.