The Form I-9:
The Form I-9:

The Definitive Guide for HR

As forms go, the Form I-9 should be a quick and easy part of the on-boarding process. You’ve gone through the often long and drawn-out hiring process, and you still have all the orientation and benefits work ahead. A two page form should be a piece of cake.

Unfortunately, this necessary step to verify that your new hire can legally work in the United States is filled with landmines. These landmines come with some pretty steep penalties, so all HR representatives need to be well versed on how to fill the form out correctly.

What is a Form I-9

A Form I-9 is a government document that confirms a new hire is either a US citizen, or that they are in the country legally and have the proper documentation that allows them to work. You can download the full from directly from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are two sections of the Form I-9. Below, you’ll see a breakdown of each of the sections and what is needed to complete them.

I-9 Section 1

Section 1 must be filled out before a new hire completes their first day on the job. It must be filled out by the employee to provide proof of identification.

The form asks for:

  • Full legal name
  • Any aliases they have used
  • A current address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number (Only if employer is using E-Verify)
  • Email address (Only if employer is using E-Verify)
  • Phone number
  • They must check a box to confirm their citizenship or status (noncitizen national, lawful permanent resident or alien)
  • Those who are not citizens must provide an Alien Number, USCIS Number, a Form I-94 admission number or a foreign passport number
  • The date their employment authorization expires
  • Employee’s signature

All translators or preparers who help an employee fill out the Form I-9 need to sign and date the form and provide their address.

I-9 Section 2

Section 2 is the Employer’s Review and Verification. This section must be completed within 3 days of the date of hire. It must be filled out by an employer’s representative.

In this section, the employer is certifying that their new hire is legally allowed to work in the US and that the representative has viewed the necessary documents in person.

Proof of Identity and Employment Verification

Along with signing, employees must present a document from List A that proves his/her identity and employment eligibility. Or they can use one document from List B to show identity, and one document from List C which proves employment authorization. The lists are outlined below.

Employer or Authorized Representatives

The employer has a role to play in the I-9 process as well. If the employer isn’t there to physically perform these actions, an authorized representative can be tasked with doing them. Either way, the following must be completed:

  • Fill out the employee’s full name and their citizenship status form Section 1 of the form
  • Check to make sure the documents the employee presents are original — there should be no photocopies. They must also be on the Lists of Acceptable Documents. (Lists A, B & C below)
  • Enter the date of hire
  • Enter the type of document, the issuing authority, the number and expiration date
  • Sign and date Section 2 confirming that the preparer reviewed the documents

I-9 Acceptable Documents

When filling out a Form I-9, the employee must be ready to provide proof of his/her identity using different documents designated on the government site. An employee can provide one from List A to show proof of identity and employment eligibility.

Here is a list of the acceptable documents from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration.

List A

  • U.S. Passport or Passport Card

  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card

  • Employment Authorization Document Card that contains a photograph

  • Foreign Passport with Form I-94 or Form I-94A with Arrival-Departure Record (containing an endorsement to work)

  • Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A

  • Foreign passport containing a Form I-551 stamp or Form I-551 printed notation

  • If these documents aren’t available, an employee can choose one document from List B to show identity and one from List C to prove employment authorization.

List B

  • School ID card with a photograph

  • Voter registration card

  • U.S.military card or draft record

  • Military dependent’s ID card

  • U.S.Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) card

  • Native American tribal document

  • Driver’s license issued by a Canadian government authority

If under the age of 18

  • School record or report card

  • Clinic, doctor or hospital record

  • Day care or nursery school record

List C

  • U.S. Social Security account number card that is unrestricted

  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240)

  • Certification of Birth Abroad issued by the U.S. Department of State (Form FS-545)

  • Certification of Report of Birth issued by the U.S. Department of State (Form DS-1350)

  • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority or outlying territory of the United States bearing an official seal

  • Native American tribal document

  • U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197)

  • Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States (Form I-179)

  • Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

What is the Difference Between I-9 and E-Verify?

There has definitely been a little confusion about the difference between the Form I-9 and E-Verify. E-Verify is not a replacement for the Form I-9. In fact the I-9 is the heart of the E-Verify process.

E-Verify is a free government service that compares the information provided by the employee on the Form I-9 with data from the US Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, and in some cases, the Department of Motor Vehicles.

E-Verify is mandatory for federal contractors and for employers in a few states.

Using E-Verify does not excuse an employer from filling out and retaining Form I-9s for their employees, but it can add a level of security in the case of an audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Using E-Verify is seen as a good faith effort to make sure all employees are eligible to work.

Form I-9E-Verify
Mandatory for all employersVoluntary for all employers
Completed by employer and new hireSubmitted electronically by employer
No Social Security Number NeededRequires a Social Security Numbers
List B identity documents do not require a photoList B identity documents do require a photo
Can be used to re-verify expired employment authorizationCannot be used to re-verify once employment verification has expired

Form I-9 Updates

The Form I-9 has undergone many revisions over the years. The most recent form went into effect on September 18, 2017.

Some of the changes are just names and phrases:

  • The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices has been renamed the Immigration and Employee Rights Section.
  • The words “the end of” have been removed from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

Other changes include:

  • A Consular report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) has been added to List C.
  • You can fill now fill out the Form I-9 on the computer. Dropdown menus make many of the sections easier to complete.

Form I-9 Verification for Remote Employees

The basic steps for filling out the Form I-9 are the same whether you are hiring someone from around the corner or across the country.

  • Section 1 of the form needs to be filled out within the first day of a hire.
  • Section 2 has to be completed within 3 business days from that date of hire.
  • A company agent or representative has to view the documents that prove a hire’s eligibility to work and must sign Section 2.

There are a few challenges involved when it comes to remote hires. The most significant is that you need someone on the ground with the new hire to look at their verification documents and sign Section 2 of the Form I-9. You only have 3 days from the date of hire to authenticate these documents. Options include using an authorized representative, which can be almost anyone the employer trusts, hiring a notary public, or taking advantage of agent networks provided by electronic I-9 solutions like our I-9 solution.

This might seem like a lot of effort for a little form, but the penalties for skimping on the process can be steep. If you face an ICE audit of your Form I-9s you could be looking at $110 to $1,100 in fines per form.

Read our blog post to learn more about I-9 Verification for Remote Employees.

ICE Audit of Form I-9s

Even though the Form I-9 is a mere 3 pages, it is a landmine for employers. The small details are so important that there are 70 pages of instructions for filling out the form.

Things like failing to date or sign a section are fodder for auditors. You will not have a lot of time to prepare if Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent presents you with a Notice of Inspection. If that happens, you could have as little as 3 days to present all of your Form I-9s as well as other documents that might be requested.

If you are audited, agents will inspect your Form I-9s to make sure they are complete and that you have one for every current employee. When it comes to former employees, you must retain original I-9 forms for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later.

Read our I-9 Ice Audit blog post to learn more about an I-9 audits and how you can prevent them.

EBI's I-9 Solutions

If all of these guidelines surrounding the Form I-9 have you uneasy, you are not alone. With the current political climate, making sure you are hiring employees that are allowed to work is more important than ever. ICE raids and audits are on the rise and are expected to continue to grow.

An automated system that works with your applicant tracking software and background screening program is a good way to keep your Form I-9s in order. State-of-the-art technology makes sure that Form I-9s are filled out properly every step of the way. The forms are then stored electronically which means they can be produced, if needed, with just the push of a button.

EBI-9 also assists in the hiring of remote employees as well as utilizing E-Verify, if your company chooses to do so.