It’s the first day for your brand new employee, and there’s an alphabet soup of forms for them to fill out before they can start work. Form I-9 is one of the forms that’s mandatory for all new employees. It’s used by the federal government to verify employment eligibility to work in the US.
Here’s a quick overview of how Form I-9 works, the basic compliance requirements and instructions, plus what your employee will need to do to complete theirs.
What is Form I-9?
An I-9 is the Department of Homeland Security’s Employment Eligibility Verification form. Completed by each new employee at your business, it is used to determine and document each employee’s eligibility to work in the US. A few key things to note:
- All US employers are required to have any new hires fill out this form, regardless of citizenship status.
- An I-9 must be filled out by both the employer and the employee.
- Employees must verify their identity using items from a specific list (below). The complete list of acceptable documents is also included in the official instructions.
- As the employer, you are not allowed to tell the employee which documents they need to use for verification purposes.
- I-9s must be retained in your files for either three years after the date of hire, or for one year after employment has been terminated, whichever is longer.
- I-9s are not submitted to any agency, but they may be audited at any time by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
What do you need to fill out Form I-9?
As an employer, you will not need anything specific to complete an I-9, as all of the required documents need to be supplied by the employee. With that said, you will be required to sign that you have seen documents and identification that verify each employee’s eligibility to work in the US, and that the documentation employees provide are valid.
It is a best practice, but not required, to photocopy any documents employees provide to prove their eligibility. See the full list of acceptable documents below.
Form I-9 instructions
Section 1: Employee information and attestation: Your employee is responsible for completing this section. As part of this, they will indicate their current immigration status such as a citizen of the U.S., non-citizen national of the U.S., lawful permanent resident, or alien authorized to work in the U.S.
This part of the form should be filled out no later than the employee’s first day of employment. A Preparer and/or Translator Certification section will also need to be completed and signed if a translator was used to assist the employee with filling out the form or translating the information in any form.
Section 2: Employer review and verification: Within three days of starting work, the newly hired employee must present specific documents attesting to their chosen status. Employees can present one selection from List A, or one selection from List B and one selection from List C below.
Here is a partial list of acceptable documents. The I-9 instruction form contains a more detailed list.
|LIST A||LIST B||LIST C|
|U.S. Passport||U.S. Driver’s License||Social Security Card|
|U.S. Passport Card||U.S. State I.D. Card||Birth Certificate|
|Permanent Resident Card||Voter Registration Card||U.S. Citizen I.D. Card|
|Foreign Passport w/I-551||U.S. Military Card||Receipt for application to replace Social Security Card|
|Employment Authorization Document||U.S. Military Dependent I.D. Card||Certificate for Birth Abroad|
|A receipt for application to replace passport||Native American Tribal Document|
Again, you cannot specify which documents need to be presented or indicate a preference in any way. If asked, you should refer the employee to the last page of the instructions found on the USCIS website for more information so they can decide for themselves.
Any document presented for proof of work status must be an original document or certified copy. It’s the employer’s responsibility to review all of the documents received and subsequently fill out Section 2, where you will enter information such as Document Title, Issuing Authority, Document Number, and Expiration Date.
You may also choose to make a photocopy of the documents presented to remain with the completed I-9. Once the form is completed, you will need to enter the employee’s start date, sign the form, and add it to your files.
Section 3: Reverification for rehires. Section 3 only needs to be filled out if a former employee is rehired within three years of their original hire date, or if a document used to verify immigration status has expired.
When should it be filed?
Unlike other employment forms, an I-9 is not filed with an outside agency, but instead is retained by the employer and made available for inspection by U.S. Government officials as needed. It’s your choice to keep all paper I-9s together in one folder in your employee files or keep each one with the rest of their personnel file.
Employers are required to retain an I-9 for as long as the employee remains employed with their business. Once employment ends, the company needs to hold onto their form at least one year after employment has ended.
With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement increasing the frequency of company audits, it’s vital that this form is filled out accurately and filed on a timely basis to avoid steep penalties and fines.