I-9 Form - Employment Eligibility Form Requirements
When hired for a new job, employees are required to prove that they are legally entitled to work in the United States. The I-9 form is the document employees need to complete to verify their eligibility to work in the U.S.
What is an I-9 Form?
Employers are required to verify the identity and eligibility to work for all new employees. An Employment Eligibility Form (I-9) is a form created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sector of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that must be completed for every employee hired in the United States. The I-9 form is used to verify an employee’s identity and to determine that he or she is eligible to begin work for the company. Make sure that you are using the latest version of the I-9, the form was revised effective July 17, 2017.
When Employment Eligibility Forms are Completed
An Employment Eligibility Form (I-9) must be completed for all new hires. The employer must verify the employment eligibility and identity documents presented by the employee and record the document information on the I-9 form within three days of employment.
If an employer fails to complete and maintain I-9 forms for each new hire, they may be subject to fines or other legal ramifications from the Department of Labor. Employees must provide documentation to support their claim and prove they are legally entitled to work in the U.S.
In addition, employees must present original documents, not photocopies.
The only exception is an employee may present a certified copy of a birth certificate. On the form, the employer must verify the employment eligibility and identity documents presented by the employee and record the document information on the I-9 form.
Background on the Legislation
The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) deemed American employers legally responsible for employment eligibility verification required for all new employees. The first part of the I-9 form is to be completed by the employee, and the employer is required to complete the second section within three days of the employee's start date. While the I-9 form is not required for volunteers or contract-based employees, foreign nationals on employment visas are required to fill out the form to indicate their legal status in the United States.
If an employee is unable to read or write in English, the form allows for a translator or legal preparer to complete the form on behalf of the employee. As of October 2004, the I-9 verification process can be completed electronically.
Required Documentation to Prove Eligibility to Work
In addition to your basic personal information, when you fill out an I-9 Form, you need to provide a document that establishes your identity and your eligibility to work in the United States. The documentation usually includes some type of photo identification and confirmation of legal status in the country to cross-check the eligibility to work in the United States.
Acceptable I-9 Documents
There are three categories of documents that you are allowed to submit. Employees are required to present either one of the documents from List A or one of the documents from List B and one of the documents from List C.
List A (Documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility)
- United States Passport
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
- Temporary Resident Card (I-688)
- Employment Authorization Document (I-766, I-688B, or I-688A)
- Foreign Passport with temporary I-551 stamp
- For aliens authorized to work only for a specific employer, foreign passport with Form I-94 authorizing employment with this employer
List B (Documents that establish identity only)
- Driver's license issued by a state or outlying possession
- ID card issued by a state or outlying possession
- Native American tribal document
- Canadian driver's license or ID card with a photograph (for Canadian aliens authorized to work only for a specific employer)
- School ID card with a photography
- Voter's registration card
- U.S. Military card or draft record
- Military dependent's ID Card
List C (Documents that establish employment eligibility only)
- Social Security account number card without employment restrictions
- Original or certified copy of a birth certificate with an official seal issued by a state or local government agency
- Certification of Birth Abroad
- U.S. Citizen ID Card
- Native American tribal document
- Form I-94 authorizing employment with this employer (for aliens authorized to work only for a specific employer)
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240)
When Don’t You Need to Complete an I-9 Form
Since the law was instituted on November 6, 1986, most paid workers are required to submit I-9 forms. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. You don't need an I-9 form if you:
- Were hired on or before November 6, 1986, and are continuing in their employment with an expectation to continue with your company in the future.
- You are hired for "casual domestic work," like babysitting, nannying or cleaning, in a private home on an intermittent basis.
- You are an independent contractor.
- You aren't physically working in the United States.
No I-9 Documentation?
An employee who fails to produce the required document, or a receipt for a replacement document (in the case of lost, stolen, or destroyed documents), within three business days of the date employment begins, can be terminated. An employee who shows a receipt has ninety days to present the original documents.
I-9 Form Reverification Process
United States citizen’s I-9 forms are valid indefinitely unless a gap in employment exceeding one year occurs. Foreign Nationals on a work visa or students and exchange visitors must have their I-9 reverified with each extension, or after their visa has expired with a new employment authorization permit is issued.
I-9 forms are required to be retained by the employer for either three years after an employee’s start date or one year after his or her employment is terminated, whichever is later.
The IRCA also includes anti-discrimination clauses. Under the IRCA, U.S. Citizens, Permanent Residents, and Asylum Seekers legally allowed to work in the United States legally cannot be denied employment or be forcefully terminated based on origin or citizenship. Additionally, employers must accept any of the aforementioned documents for the I-9 form as long as the documents are originals or certified copies. The IRCA is enforceable for all employers with three of more workers.
Employer Verification of I-9 Information
Employers can verify an employees I-9 information online to avoid fines or penalties by using the E-Verify system. This an online service provided by the federal government that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to information from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
Penalties for Employers Who Hire Unauthorized Workers
Employers who hire unauthorized workers can be fined between $250 and $5,500 per worker depending on the severity of the situation. Accepting fraudulent documents can also cause a company to pay between $375 and $3,200 for the first offense, and double the latter per document for additional occurrences.
Finally, employers may be fined or subject to other repercussions for discriminating based on citizenship, national origin, document fraud or rejection, or retaliation.