I-9 Compliance with Puerto Rico Birth Certificates: What Employers Need to Know

Published: October 19, 2023 by Vijay Thakkar

Puerto Rico is the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, located east of the Dominican Republic. Since 1898, it has been an unincorporated territory of the United States, meaning the island is controlled by the U.S. government but is separate from the mainland, where the official languages are Spanish and English.

All U.S. employers must properly complete Form I-9 for every individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. Both employees and employers (or authorized representatives of the employer) must complete form I-9. The Spanish version of Form I-9 may be filled out by employers and employees in Puerto Rico ONLY. Spanish-speaking employers and employees in the 50 states and other U.S. territories may print this for their reference but may only complete the form in English to meet employment eligibility verification requirements.

Employers should pay attention to individuals who submit a Puerto Rico birth certificate as a List C document when completing Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification because the Vital Statistics Office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico started issuing a more secure birth certificate on July 1, 2010, with an aim to enhance security and reduce the risk of fraud of Puerto Rico-issued birth certificates to unlawfully obtain U.S. passports, Social Security benefits, and other federal services. (USCIS Policy Memorandum).

*Remember that this law invalidates only the birth certificate.It does not change a person’s citizenship status.

Key Points for Puerto Rico Birth Certificates:

  1. Certified copies of Puerto Rico birth certificates must have been issued on or after July 1, 2010, to be considered valid List C documents for I-9 purposes. This means that only the new, more secure birth certificates or the older ones issued on or after July 1, 2010, are acceptable as List C documents.It’s crucial to emphasize that a certified copy is a duplicate of the original birth certificate, certified as a true copy by the issuing authority.
  2. If the birth certificate or any accompanying documentation is not in English, employers can accept a certified translation in addition to the original document. The certified translation ensures that the information on the birth certificate is accurately understood.
  3. Employers need to ensure that the information on the birth certificate aligns with the other documents presented during the I-9 verification process. This includes checking for consistency in the employee’s name, date of birth, and other identifying details.
  4. No Need for Reverification: If an I-9 was completed prior to October 31, 2010, using the “old” Puerto Rico birth certificate, it remains valid. Employers are not required to go back and reverify the employment eligibility of those employees thereby reducing the administrative burden of re-verifying employees.
  5. Employers are required to retain a copy of the Puerto Rico birth certificate in their records, as per the I-9 retention requirements. It should be stored securely and be accessible for potential government audits or inspections. If an employer has a business policy to not retain documents, other than those required by E-Verify, the same should be noted in the employer’s Standard Operating Procedure.
  6. Failure to follow the USCIS guidelines can lead to substantive violation for utilizing the unacceptable List C document and may result in I-9 paperwork violations ranging from $272 to $2,701 per violation.

Please note that immigration regulations can change over time, and it’s essential to refer to the most current USCIS guidelines or consult with legal experts or USCIS representatives for the latest information on List C documents and their eligibility for Form I-9 purposes.

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