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Immigration Law

New Puerto Rican Birth Certificates & Driver's Licenses Marked Not Valid as ID -- Is the I-9 Process Affected?

by Dawn Lurie and Christina Pitrelli

Greenberg Traurig's Business Immigration and Compliance Group discusses some interesting problems that come up with the new Puerto Rican birth certificates. In particular, does it conflict with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005? It would seem so. How does an employer handle a Puerto Rican driver's license marked "Not for Identity Purposes" when filling out an I-9 (employment verification form)? The authors clarify:


After September 30, 2010, all Puerto Rican-born individuals seeking to apply or petition for U.S. immigration or citizenship benefits, including a first-time U.S. passport, will be required to obtain a new security-enhanced birth certificate. This requirement follows the enactment of Puerto Rico's new birth certificate law - Law 1919 of 2009 (as Amended), which went into effect on July 1, 2010, and provides for the immediate issuance of new birth certificates and the upcoming invalidation of the old ones.

The stated purpose of the new law, which is the product of collaboration between the Government of Puerto Rico, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS), is to protect the identity and credit of Puerto Rican-born individuals while addressing national security threats. These threats are posed by a robust black market through which perpetrators have allegedly exploited common Hispanic last names shared by many Puerto Ricans through the theft of original birth certificates and their subsequent use to commit fraud and illegally obtain a host of government and private sector documents and benefits such as driver's licenses, passports and Social Security numbers - a problem that was said to have increased over time.

This new law ends the long-standing practice in Puerto Rico of public and private entities frequently requiring the submission and retention of original birth certificates for various transactions, the improper storage of which allegedly led to rampant theft and the fueling of the black market. Under the new law, requiring the submission, retention and/or storage of an original birth certificate is now a criminal misdemeanor that would also carry civil liability for damages incurred by affected individuals. Now, only digital or paper photocopies of a birth certificate are acceptable.

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Greenberg Traurig's Business Immigration and Compliance Group extensive experience in advising multinational corporations on how to minimize exposure and liability regarding a variety of employment related issues, particularly I-9 employment eligibility verification matters and E-Verify related issues. In addition to assisting in I-9 and H-1B (Labor Condition Application) audits, GT develops immigration-related compliance strategies, company protocols and performs internal I-9 compliance inspections. GT has also defended businesses involved in large-scale government worksite enforcement actions, high stakes administrative I-9 Audits and Department of Labor Wage and Hour investigations. Our seasoned attorneys provide counsel on a variety of compliance-related issues, including IRCA anti-discrimination laws-Office of Special Counsel Investigations, and employers' responsibilities when faced with traditional no-match situations, as well as more serious workplace identity theft or other alleged misrepresentations made by employees. Our national footprint, combined with a broad based platform, provide seamless integration with our partners practicing in government contract, deemed export, labor & employment, tax, white collar defense, litigation as well as other areas of the law.