“Do it as if your job depended on it.” 

That’s the advice one business law attorney is dispensing to farmers and other business owners to underscore the importance of complying with the new federal I-9 form, which will go into effect on May 8.

I-9 compliance, which many business owners, especially farmers and other small business owners, already find difficult, will get even harder when this new form goes into effect, says Tommy Eden, an attorney with Constangy, Brooks and Smith, a national law firm representing large and small business employers throughout the United States.

Three organizations, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Constangy, Brooks and Smith, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Alabama, are partnering to offer free comprehensive online training to help farmers and other business owners comply with these new requirements.

The training, titled “Untangling the New Form I-9,” is available at http://www.aces.edu/events.

For many business owners, the stakes couldn’t be higher, says Rosemary Elebash, Alabama director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

“It’s absolutely critical that employers and employees alike understand this,” Elebash says. “It’s double the work — two pages instead of one — but it’s the penalty provisions that are most alarming.”

Business owners who don’t fill out these forms correctly are likely to be penalized pretty substantially.”

I-9 compliance procedures are an outgrowth of the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986, which makes it unlawful for employers to knowingly hire or continue to employ individuals who are not legally authorized to work in the United States.