The I-9 Form is used to verify an employee’s identity and work authorization status in the US. Employers must complete an I-9 Form and review supporting documents for every new hire. Employers are required to keep I-9 Form records available to review in the event of an audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The I-9 Form has been required since 1986 when the Immigration Reform and Control Act was adopted. Failing to complete and properly store I-9 forms can result in substantial fines and even criminal charges for serious failures.
Let’s take a look at how to complete an I-9 Form, who is responsible for each section, and how to ensure the forms are easily accessible in the event of an ICE audit.
How to Complete an I-9 Form
An I-9 Form must be completed for every new hire. The I-9 Form is filled out in part by the employee and in part by the employer. HR typically manages the process as part of onboarding and is responsible for completing the employer sections. As a part of this process, HR will review the employee’s I-9 acceptable documents.
Who Completes Each Section of an I-9 Form?
The I-9 Form consists of three sections. Section 1 contains the employee’s personal information and must be completed by the new employee. Section 2 is the employer’s review and must be completed by the employer. Section 3 is not always required, but must be completed by the employer when necessary, as explained further below.
In this section, the employee will provide identifying information such as their name, address, and date of birth. They will also need to attest that they have the right to work in the US. While the employee is responsible for completing this section, you will need to supply them with a list of 1-9 acceptable documents to verify the information they provide.
Prior to completing this section, you will need to review the I-9 acceptable documents presented by the employee in person. These documents verify the employee’s identification and work authorization status. I-9 acceptable documents are broken into three lists. List A documents, including US passports, prove both identity and work authorization. List B documents, including US driver’s licenses, prove only identity and must be combined with a List C document, such as a US Social Security card, to prove work authorization. Employees can provide either one document from List A or one document from List B plus one document from List C.
Once you have verified the employee’s documents and checked that they have completed Section 1, you will sign Section 2 on behalf of the employer.
Section 3 is only required when an employee’s work authorization is set to expire. Remind employees at least 90 days before the expiration date that you need to reverify their work authorization. Employees can provide either a List A or List C document for this purpose.
Employers also have the option to complete Section 3 when an employee has been rehired within three years of their original I-9 Form, or when they have legally changed their name. While not required, employers sometimes choose to complete Section 3 for rehires rather than starting a new I-9 Form. Similarly, employers can complete Section 3 to provide a clear record that an employee who changed their name is not a new employee subject to a new I-9 Form.
How to Complete I-9 Forms for Remote Workers
In 2020, ICE adopted temporary measures exempting fully remote workers from presenting their I-9 acceptable documents in person, which have now been extended until July 31, 2023. Employers are still required to inspect the documents remotely and should note “COVID-19” in the Section 2 Additional Information field to explain delays in reviewing the document in person.
If your organization is returning to in-person work, make reviewing and updating I-9 records a priority as ICE regulations may change after the new deadline.
When Must I-9 Forms Be Completed?
Each section of an I-9 Form must be completed by a certain deadline:
- Section 1: by the employee’s first day of employment
- Section 2: after the employee’s documents have been verified and no later than three business days from their first day of employment (Note: business days include weekends if your business operates on weekends)
- Section 3: before expiration of the employee’s work authorization (if applicable)
How to Store I-9 Forms
Keep a completed I-9 Form on file for every current employee. When employees leave, you must keep their I-9 Form on file for a set period of time.
If the employee worked for your organization for less than two years, keep their I-9 on file until three years after their first day of employment. If they were with you longer than two years, keep their I-9 on file for one year past the date they stopped working for you.
I-9 forms should be stored safely in either paper files or through a secure electronic system. If you complete I-9 forms on paper but store them electronically, then you may destroy the paper form after securely storing the electronic form.
E-Verify is an online government service that works as an alternative to the I-9 Form. It confirms employee work eligibility by comparing an employee’s I-9 information with records available to the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security. However, it can only be used for employees who have a Social Security number. Employers must still complete and maintain an I-9 Form for employees who do not have a Social Security number.
Federal contractors and businesses operating in some states are required to use E-Verify for all eligible employees.
Preparing for ICE audits
ICE has enforcement authority over I-9 Form compliance and may choose to audit your business records. Audits begin when the employer receives a Notice of Inspection from ICE. From the Notice of Inspection, the employer has only three business days to produce its I-9 forms.
For this reason, it’s best practice to maintain I-9 records in a format that is accessible and separate from the rest of an employee’s record. This will allow you to quickly organize the I-9 forms and have them ready for auditing.
It’s your legal obligation to ensure that an I-9 Form is completed for each new employee to verify their identity and eligibility to work in the US. Each of the three sections of the form must be completed by a specific deadline relative to the employee’s start date. All I-9 forms must be stored safely and appropriately in the event of an audit by ICE.
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