When onboarding a new hire, you have a lot of paperwork to complete, including Form I-9. This form confirms an employee’s eligibility to work legally in the United States. If you don’t complete the form correctly for every new person you hire, you risk subjecting your business to civil fines and penalties. Review this guide to learn what you need to know about Form I-9 compliance and employment eligibility verification.

What is an I-9? Understanding Compliance Requirements

Form I-9 is a federal form used to verify an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administers the form. Under federal law, all U.S. employers must complete and store an I-9 employment eligibility verification form for every employee they hire.

The government has rules for Form I-9 compliance to ensure you’re hiring people who can legally work in the United States. This compliance should be a core part of your onboarding process for new employees. Complying with Form I-9 requirements can make sure your business:

  • Follows the law: It’s against the law to knowingly employ someone who’s not authorized to work in the country legally.
  • Avoids penalties: Failure to comply with I-9 requirements can result in civil fines or other penalties, which can be costly to your business.
  • Prevents legal issues: If the government audits your company’s records, your compliance with Form I-9 requirements can prevent ongoing legal issues.

Who Needs to Fill Out Form I-9?

Both the employee and the employer fill out different parts of Form I-9. The new hire completes Section 1 to vouch for their employment eligibility. By completing this section, the employee attests to being a U.S. citizen, a noncitizen national, a lawful permanent resident, or a noncitizen authorized to work in the country.

The employee must also submit documentation to verify their citizenship or immigration status, such as a U.S. passport or a permanent resident card. In Section 2, the employer Or authorized representative must review and verify this documentation.

In some cases, an employer may also need to complete Supplement B, a section for re-verification and rehire. You need to fill out this portion if you rehire an employee within three years of their original Form I-9.

What Do Employers Need to Know?

As an employer, you’re responsible for knowing what information to provide a new hire and when to complete their I-9. An employee must complete Section 1 on their first day of work. They can also complete this section before their first day, but only after officially accepting the job offer.

Once the employee fills out Section 1, you can complete Section 2 of the form. You have three business days from the employee’s start date to complete this section. For example, if the new hire starts on a Monday, you must fill out Section 2 by Thursday. You can choose to complete Section 2 yourself or appoint an authorized representative to handle this task for you. An authorized representative can be:

  • A member of the general public
  • A personnel officer
  • An agent
  • A third-party vendor
  • A notary public

Reviewing Documentation

You or an authorized representative must review an employee’s documentation with the employee present. If you’re using E-Verify, an electronic employment verification system, you can view the documentation remotely under some conditions.

When an employee presents their documentation, you should accept it if:

  • The document(s) appears to be genuine; and
  • The document(s) relates to the person presenting them

As long as the employee’s documentation meets this criteria, you can show the government you completed the I-9 in good faith. If the government later finds the employee is working illegally in the United States, you can make this good faith argument in your defense.

Retaining and Storing Form I-9 Documents

You’re required to keep Form I-9 documents for all employees throughout their tenure with the company. You can retain the paper forms or store them electronically.

If an employee leaves the company, you must keep their I-9 on file for a set period, depending on how long they worked there. These are the federal regulations for retaining former employees’ I-9 forms:

  • employers must keep documents for 1 year from termination or 3 years from hire, whichever is longer.

How to Complete Form I-9 for Employers

The Form I-9 employment eligibility verification process can begin as soon as an employee accepts a job offer. In general, here are the steps you can follow to meet all I-9 requirements:

  1. Provide the new hire with Form I-9 and a list of acceptable documents on or before their first day of work. Make sure they complete Section 1 by the end of their first day.
  2. Ask the new hire to submit documentation to verify their identity and work authorization.
  3. Review their documentation and complete Section 2 by the third business day following the employee’s start date.
  4. Store the employee’s completed Form I-9.
  5. If necessary, complete Supplement B if the employee’s work authorization expires, if they change their name legally, or if you rehire a previous employee within three years.

For a more in-depth explanation of each step, you can refer to the USCIS Handbook for Employers.

Mistakes to Avoid

When completing the Form I-9 for employment eligibility verification, be aware of some common mistakes to avoid. These often include:

  • Missing required information: Review the form carefully to ensure both you and the employee have completed all the required fields and signed the form.
  • Asking for specific documents: Employees can choose what documents to submit for employment verification. You cannot ask an employee to submit specific documents from the approved list.
  • Accepting copies of documents: All documents an employee presents must be originals. The one exception is a birth certificate, which can be a certified copy.
  • Not checking expiration dates: Check the expiration dates of an employee’s documents to ensure they’re current. If a document has expired, you can’t accept it.

Acceptable Documents

A new hire has the option to submit one document showing both their identity and employment authorization or two documents satisfying both requirements separately. Acceptable documents from List A, which prove both identity and employment authorization, include a U.S. passport, a permanent resident card, a foreign passport with an I-551 stamp or visa, or an employment authorization document with a photo.

List B documents verify an employee’s identity, while List C documents show employment authorization. Employees must submit one document from each list. Acceptable identity documents include a state-issued driver’s license, a school ID card, a voter registration card, or a Native American tribal document. From List C, employees can submit a U.S. Social Security card, an original or certified copy of their birth certificate, or a U.S. citizen ID card, among others.

Key Advantages of Working with InCheck for Your I-9 Compliance Needs

Obviously, there’s a lot to know about Form I-9 employment eligibility verification and federal compliance requirements. You need to follow a set timeline, verify accepted documents, and store the forms correctly for every employee on your payroll. Other challenges, such as remote hiring, can complicate the process even further.

To simplify the process for businesses, InCheck partners directly with Form I-9 Compliance to offer employment eligibility verification services. This partnership enables InCheck to provide a full-service solution to track and manage I-9 forms electronically. The technology integrates seamlessly with InCheck’s platform so you get all the benefits, which include:

  • A cloud-based platform for remote I-9s
  • An easy-to-use compliance dashboard to complete, sign, and track I-9 forms
  • Electronic storage to retain I-9 forms as required by law
  • Access to thousands of Form I-9 experts and authorized representatives who can complete Section 2
  • Continuous updates to ensure your business remains compliant with changing laws
  • Integrated E-Verify accessibility for quick, streamlined employment verification 

Make Form I-9 Compliance Easier with InCheck

At InCheck, we’re committed to partnering with businesses for the hiring and onboarding process. Our employment eligibility verification services make it easier to verify employees’ work authorization, ensuring your business remains compliant with federal regulations. Through our partnership with Form I-9 Compliance, we offer electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify services, as well as remote verification, audit and remediation assistance, and electronic storage. Contact us today to learn how we can offer onboarding support for your business.

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

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