What Is an I-9 Form?

Form I-9 Explained

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An I-9 Form is a government form used to verify an employee's eligibility to work in the United States. It's required of all employees and they must include supporting documentation as proof.

Learn more about filling out an I-9 Form and what it entails.

What Is an I-9 Form?

As part of the new-hire paperwork provided by their employer, a new employee must complete an I-9 Form, also called an Employment Eligibility Verification Form.

The I-9 Form is used to verify an employee’s identity and to determine whether they are eligible to begin work for the company. It was created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sector of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and must be completed for every employee hired in the U.S.

I-9 Form

Who Uses an I-9 Form?

All new hires must fill out an I-9 Form during the hiring process. The employer must verify the employee's eligibility and identification documents and record the document information on the I-9 Form within three days of employment.

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.

You do not need to complete a Form I-9 if you are or were:

  • Hired on or before Nov. 6, 1986, (or on or before Nov. 27, 2007, if employment is in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) and have a reasonable expectation of employment at all times
  • Doing casual domestic work in a private home
  • An independent contractor
  • Employed by a contractor providing contract services, such as a temp agency
  • Not working on U.S. soil

You also don't need your own I-9 if you're self-employed.

Discrimination Is Prohibited

The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) deemed American employers legally responsible for verifying the employment eligibility of all new employees. While the I-9 Form is not required for volunteers or contract-based employees, foreign nationals on employment visas are required to complete the form.

The legislation also includes anti-discrimination clauses. Under the IRCA, U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and asylum seekers legally allowed to work in the United States cannot be denied employment or be forcefully terminated based on origin or citizenship. The IRCA is enforceable for all employers with three or more workers. 

Where to Get an I-9 Form

Your employer may provide you with a copy of the I-9 Form. You can also download it from the USCIS website.

What to Do If You Don't Receive an I-9 Form

An I-9 Form is necessary for continued employment.

An employer that violates the law regarding verification and the I-9 Form could face fines or criminal penalties.

If you are missing your Form I-9, contact your human resources department to secure a copy or download one from the internet and submit it to your employer.

Missing Documents

If an employee fails to produce a 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, they can be terminated.

An employee who shows a receipt for replacement has 90 days to present the replacement documents. If you need to obtain a copy of your documentation, you may be able to request it online.

How to Fill Out and Read an I-9 Form

In addition to your basic personal information, when you fill out an I-9 Form you need to provide at least one of the approved forms of documentation to prove your identity and eligibility to work in the U.S.

Employees must present original documents, not photocopies.

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 below documents from List A, or one of the documents from List B plus one of the documents from List C.

List A (documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility):

  • United States passport or passport card
  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
  • Foreign passport that contains a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation on a machine-readable immigrant visa
  • Employment Authorization Document that contains a photograph (I-766)
  • Foreign Passport with a temporary I-551 stamp
  • For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work only for a specific employer because of their status: a foreign passport and either Form I-94 or Form I-94A with arrival-departure record and work endorsement
  • Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or I-94A

List B (documents that establish identity only):

  • Driver's license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United States
  • ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies or entities
  • School ID with photograph
  • U.S. Coast guard Merchant Mariner Document card
  • Native American tribal document
  • Driver’s license issued by a Canadian government authority
  • Voter's registration card
  • U.S. military card or draft record
  • Military dependent's ID card

For people under the age of 18 who are unable to present a document listed above:

  • School record (such as report card)
  • Hospital or doctor record
  • Daycare record
  • Nursery school record

List C (documents that establish employment eligibility only)

  • Social Security account number card that is unrestricted
  •  Original birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of the United States, bearing an official seal (certified copy accepted)
  • Certification of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Forms DS-1350,FS-545, and FS-240)
  • U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197)
  • ID Card for use of resident citizen in the U.S. (Form I-179)
  • Native American tribal document
  • Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security

How to File an I-9 Form

Employees can complete the I-9 form electronically. The employer then retains the form on file. They must retain a Form I-9 for every employee.

Employers can verify an employee's I-9 information online to avoid fines or penalties by using the E-Verify system. This is an online service provided by the federal government that compares information from an employee's Form I-9 with information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records. The employee's Social Security number is required to use E-Verify.

I-9 forms are valid indefinitely unless there is a gap in employment of more than one year. Foreign nationals on a work visa or students and exchange visitors must have their I-9 re-verified with each extension, or after their visa has expired, when 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 their employment is terminated, whichever is later.

Key Takeaways

  • An I-9 Form is government paperwork that is required for employees to work in the United States.
  • I-9 Forms verify a person's identity and eligibility for employment.
  • The forms require supporting documentation as proof, such as driver's license or passport.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Who Must Complete Form I-9." Accessed Aug. 14, 2020.

  2. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Unlawful Discrimination and Penalties for Prohibited Practices." Accessed Aug. 14, 2020.

  3. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Acceptable Documents." Accessed Aug. 14, 2020.

  4. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Reverifying Employment Authorization for Current Employees." Accessed Aug. 14, 2020.