I-9 Form: Employment Eligibility Verification Form

Penalties can apply if you overlook details of the I-9 work authorization

Every new employee must demonstrate eligibility to work in the US by filling out the I-9 form.
••• Anna Bryukhanova/E+/Getty Images

The Form I-9 work authorization was first required under the term of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). It verifies the eligibility of an employee to work legally in the United States and employers are required to verify this eligibility for every employee they hire.

Legal Requirements 

Employers who fail to obtain the appropriate documentation from new employees can be fined. Penalties range from $110 up to $1,100 per violation—each I-9 employment verification form they fail to fill out and maintain.

Penalties increase to $375 and up to $16,000 for knowingly continuing to employ individuals who do not submit I-9 forms with the proper verification.

It's against the law for any employer to knowingly hire employees who are not authorized to work in the U.S. As part of the employment eligibility verification process, employees must provide proof that they're U.S. citizens or nationals, lawful permanent residents, or people otherwise authorized to be employed in the United States. 

Every new employee must show their employer documentation that establishes both proof of their identity and proof of their eligibility to work in the U.S. within three days of hire.

The I-9 Form must be completed for each new employee regardless of her national origin or whether the employee is a U.S. citizen. An employer has violated federal immigration law if he fails to verify the identity and employment authorization of a new employee by with a I-9 Form.

The lists of acceptable verification documents are very specific. 

List A—Documents that Establish Both Identity and Employment Eligibility

These documents establish identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. and are considered acceptable proof of both. 

  • U.S. Passport (unexpired or expired)
  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (Forms N-560 or N-561)
  • Certificate of Naturalization (Forms N-550 or N-570)
  • Unexpired foreign passport with an attached Form I-94 indicating unexpired employment authorization
  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card with photograph (Form I-551)
  • Unexpired Temporary Resident Card (Form I-688)
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Card (Form I-688A)
  • Unexpired Reentry Permit (Form I-327)
  • Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (Form 1-571)
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Document issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that contains a photograph (Form I-688B)

List B—Documents that Establish Identity

In the absence of any of the above documents, an employee would have to present two others, one for proof of identity and the other for proof of employment eligibility. The following documents can establish an employee's identity:

  • Driver's license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United States, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
  • ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies or entities, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
  • School ID card with a photograph
  • Voter's registration card
  • U.S. Military card or draft record
  • Military dependent's ID card
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
  • Native American tribal document
  • Driver's license issued by a Canadian government authority

Special List for Persons Who Are Minors 

Employees who are younger than age 18 and who are therefore unable to present any of the above documents can provide age-appropriate documents instead, including:  

  • School record or report card
  • Clinic, doctor, or hospital record
  • Day care or nursery school record

List C—Documents that Establish Employment Eligibility

One of these documents must be presented in addition to a document from List B.

  • U.S. Social Security Card issued by the Social Security Administration, other than a card stating that it is not valid for employment
  • Certification of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545 or Form DS-1350)
  • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or outlying possession of the United States bearing an official seal
  • Native American tribal document.
  • U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197)
  • ID Card for use of a Resident Citizen in the United States (Form I-179)
  • Unexpired employment authorization document issued by DHS other than those listed under List A

Additional Form I-9 Employer Responsibilities

Make sure the I-9 forms are filled out correctly and that you and your employee follow the directions exactly.

You must keep each employee's I-9 form on file for at least three years or for one year after employment ends, whichever is longer.

Keep and make copies of the original documents supplied by your employees. This isn't required but it's advised. Keep only the minimum number of documents required and store the forms and document photocopies separate from your employee files.

If any changes are made to the I-9 file document, change them on the original form and initial and date the changes. Don't fill out a new form.

Reverify expiring work authorizations and don't allow employees to work if their documentation has expired.

Be sure to respond according to timing instructions and guidelines if you receive a Social Security Administration no-match letter that indicates a certain number of your employees have unverifiable Social Security numbers.

Obtain current I-9 form information at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Additional information is available from the Society for Human Resources Management.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and from country to country. Please seek legal assistance or assistance from state, federal, or international governmental resources to make sure your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is intended to provide guidance, ideas, and assistance.