1. OnPay
  2. Payroll Software
  3. Payroll Process
  4. Form I-9 Instructions

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-9: Simple instructions and PDF Download

Updated: April 11, 2023

By: Erin Ellison

Payroll that will never let you down

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.

Fast facts about Form I-9

  • All new hires in the US are required to complete Form I-9.
  • Both the newly hired employee and employer must sign and date the form.
  • The form must be completed within three business days of the date of hire.
  • Employers need to keep Form I-9 on file for three years after the date of hire or for one year after employment ends, whichever is later.

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.

Form I-9 – Downloadable PDF

Above is a fillable PDF version of Form I-9 that you can print or download.

What is Form I-9 used for?

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.
  • Form 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’ll need to physically view an employee’s chosen form(s) of identification to complete their portion of the I-9. Even though all of the required documents need to be supplied by the employee, 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 – Downloadable PDF


New Form I-9 on the horizon

There are plans for a more condensed (streamlined) version of Form I-9 which is expected to be released sometime in 2023. While the current version of the form is expired, guidance for employers on the USCIS website states that employers should continue to use the current I-9 until the new form is available. The instructions below apply to version that’s available for download on this page.

How do you fill out an Form I-9?

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.


IRS Form I-9 Section one screenshot


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.



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.


IRS Form I-9 section three screenshot


OnPay simplifies the process of setting up new employees and makes it hassle-free. Since their tools keep track of all of the things related to payroll tax withholding, deductions, and filing, I’m able to spend less time worrying about payroll and more time managing my employees and running my business.

— William Engel, Composite Digital

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.

Pro tip:

To make the process simpler in the event of an audit, it’s best practice to store Form I-9 separately from employee files, per the USCIS.

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 the 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.


Visit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for additional information or to access the IRS instructions for Form I-9.

Take a tour to see how easy payroll can be.

Erin Ellison is the former Content Marketing Manager for OnPay. She has more than 15 years of writing experience, is a former small business owner, and has managed payroll, scheduling, and HR for more than 75 employees. She lives and works in Atlanta.