Form I-9 is a mandatory federal form that you must have for each and every employee. First things first: the Department of Homeland Security distributes Form I-9. You can download and print one here.
Completing Form I-9
I have audited many I-9 forms in my day, and let me tell you, nearly half are erroneous. It’s crazy how one simple form can be completed so inaccurately! The Form I-9 is very important, and incorrect or missing I-9 forms can result in fines up to $1,100 per employee.
Here’s how you properly complete an I-9:
- Make sure only a black or blue pen is used.
- The employee must fill out Section 1, and the section must be completed before the employee’s first day of work. This sounds tricky; here’s what most employers do. They make a job offer and wait for the candidate to accept. Then they have the employee come to the office before his or her first day to fill out paperwork including the I-9. It’s inconvenient for the employee, but the only way to remain compliant.
- Make sure the employee attests to his or her citizenship or immigration status by checking the appropriate box, then signs and dates Section 1.
- You, the employer, must complete Section 2 with three (3) business days of the employee’s first day of work. Here’s what you do:
- Check the list of acceptable documents, which is located on the back (or last page if you’re looking at the PDF online) of the I-9. Collect two documents from the employee using this list. Remember that you can have a document from either list A or List B, plus a document from list C.
- The employee must choose which documents to present. You may mention a preference or ask for a specific type.
- You may only accept unexpired documents.
- You don’t have to, but a lot of employers make copies of the documents. Remember that if you make a copy of one employee’s documents, then you must do so for all other employees. Otherwise, it’s discriminatory. Affix the copy to the I-9.
- Complete the Employer Review and Verification portion with the document title(s), issuing authority, document number, and expiration date.
- Enter the date employment began in the Certification area. The line where you write the date is very tiny and thus often forgotten, so make sure you do it.
- Sign, print your name, and date at the bottom of Section 2.
For the official and full instructions for employers regarding the Form I-9, download the handbook here.
Making Corrections or Updating Forms
When an employee’s employment authorization document expires, you must reverify his or her employment authorization. Do this in Section 3. If Section 3 has already been filled out, use a new I-9 and affix it to the old one.
Make any corrections with black or blue pen. Do not use white-out or scribbles, just a simple line through the incorrect information. Initial all corrections.
Filing Form I-9
You must retain the form for as long as an individual is employed. At separation, you must continue to retain the form for either three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date of termination… whichever is longer.
You should file I-9s separately from personnel records. This is because I-9 forms include information that can identify an employee’s national origin or race. Filing a Form I-9 in a personnel file will increase liability for potential discrimination claims.