If the Grinch hasn’t yet stolen all the 2007 cheer out of labor compliance, there’s a new hoop to jump through for hiring farm labor.

Starting Dec. 26, employers will be required to use a new Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) for new hires or be subject to fines and penalties. The new form is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). All employers must stop using old versions of the I-9 form, which has been in use since the 1986 federal immigration reform.

Key to the revision is the removal of five documents for proof of both identity and employment eligibility including: · · Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-570).

· Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570).

· Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-151).

· The unexpired Reentry Permit (Form I-327).

· The un-expired Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571).

The forms were removed because they lack sufficient features to help deter counterfeiting, tampering, and fraud, according to USCIS.

“I have reviewed the I-9 forms of dozens of small and large employers in Southern California this year and have not found any that have all of their forms properly completed,” says Don Dressler, independent labor relations consultant. “Employers get in a hurry, or don't train their employees, or often don't know themselves what is required to complete the forms correctly.”

The best defense is a good offense, according to Dressler. “Employers need to have someone audit their I-9s,” he says. “At the very least, they need to have one person working with employees to make sure the new form is filled out correctly, and then have another person double-checking it for accuracy.”