Everything You Need to Know about the I-9 Form

The I-9 form is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document used to verify a person’s identity and employment eligibility for employment in the United States. Federal law requires that a I-9 form be completed for all employees and can result in hefty fines if you don’t make sure it is filled out correctly when hiring an employee. Below is everything you need to know about the I-9 form to help you do it right the first time.

Where to Find the I-9 Form

The most updated I-9 form can be found and downloaded at the US Citizen and Immigration Services website.

Most Common I-9 Verification Documents

For US citizens, the most common forms used to prove eligibility are a US passport, Social Security card, and a driver’s license. If the person presents a passport, then no additional documentation is required. For those without a US passport or for non-citizens, there is a list of acceptable documents that can be used on the last page of the I-9 form. You must examine the documents the employee presents to confirm they belong to the person and whether they appear to be genuine before recording the information on the Form I-9.

Most common errors when completing the I-9 form

Filling out the I-9 form may seem easy but requires attention to detail that should not be ignored.
Avoiding the mistakes below can save you thousands of dollars in fines.

  • Employers complete Section 1 on or before the first day of employment instead of having the employee do it. This technically makes the employer a “translator,” and must be documented as such.
  • An employer has three business days, after the day of hire, to complete Section 2 and examine original documents (4-day rule).
  • No expired documents can be used for verification.
  • You cannot hire persons who lack valid work authorization.
  • Cannot use a subcontractor relationship (FLC/VMC) to hire someone you have reason to believe is not work authorized.
  • Over documentation – Any amount of documentation you request for one person – you must require the same for all employees.
  • Date of birth matching today’s date.

Correcting I-9

If errors are made while completing an I-9 form, make sure to take the proper actions to correct them.

  • Corrections on Section 1 – You cannot use white out, changes must be crossed out with one line by the employee, and initialed and dated by the employee. Only the employee can make changes.
  • Always use a different colored pen, draw a line through the error (if applicable) initial and date next to each change.
  • Any employee of the company can edit Section 2, as long as they can reasonably attest to the information.
  • If unsure how to correct an I-9 complete a new one and keep both forms.

Re-verification of I-9

Re-verification is needed whenever the work status of an non-citizen who is authorized to work expires.

  • All re-verification must be done on the latest version of I-9.
  • US citizens and LPRs (Lawful permanent resident) never need re-verification unless the LPR presented only an I-551 stamp for evidence of work status.
  • When a name change occurs – but is not mandatory.

Penalties for I-9 violations

Penalties for I-9 violations are expensive and should keep you dedicated to completing all I-9 forms correctly.

  • I-9 paperwork violations – civil penalty of $110 to $1,100 per violation.
  • I-9 document abuse – civil penalty of $375 – $3,200 per violation.
  • Knowingly hiring or continuing to employ a person not authorized to work in the US – civil penalty of $275 to $2,200 per violation, for the first offense.
  • Knowingly engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring or continuing to employ persons unauthorized to work – criminal penalty of $3200+ per violation and up to 6 months imprisonment.

Things you may not know

With many HR compliance questions, the answers are not always easy to find. Here is some interesting information that you may not know about the I-9 forms.

  • Employee email and phone number are optional and do not have to be entered on the form.
  • Employers are only required to review original documents for obvious forgeries.
  • Three years after employment ends – you can destroy all I-9’s of ex-employees.
  • The employee must sign and date the I-9.
  • If you assist the employee in preparing the I-9, like typing up the form with their information, or writing on the form because they have a disability, you must complete the translators’ section.
  • ICE Officers look for handwriting differences between Section 1 and 2.
  • The employee must select his/her status, but HR can provide guidance.
  • Never request specific documentation from an employee – he/she must decide what can/will provide.

Conclusion

Best practice to stay HR compliant with your employees I-9 forms is to review them in the beginning to make sure they are completed correctly and to re-check them quarterly to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks.