Making Sense of Form I-9: Simplified Steps to Ensure Form I-9 Compliance

While filling out the Form I-9 may not be the most exciting step of the hiring process, it may be one of the most important. More formally known as an Employment Eligibility Verification Form, the I-9 proves an employee is eligible to work in the United States. Administered, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), I-9 forms can be a little daunting.

But don’t be intimidated by the jargon! In this post, we’ll walk you through the form, prerequisites for employees, and your responsibilities as an employer.

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Who Needs to Fill Out an I9 Form?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires all employers, regardless of size, to complete an I-9 form for each employee within 3 days of their hiring. Businesses must keep records of the I-9 for either 3 years from the employee’s date-of-hire, or for 1 year after the employee’s termination, whichever comes first.

Non-compliance can lead to substantial fines from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Failing to produce a Form I-9 can cost employers $230 to $2,292 per violation.

Unpaid volunteers or independent contractors do not need an I-9. However, businesses may find themselves in trouble if it contracts or employs unauthorized workers. Domestic workers, foreign students, and other special categories of workers may not need to provide an I-9. For a full list see USCIS’s website. Finally, an I-9 form is not required for people hired before November 7, 1986.

It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a Form I-9 to employees. If you are an employee and haven’t yet received your form, contact the HR department right away.

Filling Out An I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form

In order to fill out the 1-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form, employees must provide documents proving their identity and eligibility. Per the forms I-9 instructions, employees must fill out Section 1. Employers are responsible for verifying the information.

The employer completes Section 2 Form I-9 by recording the employee’s provided documents. It is up to the employer to verify that the documents a) appear genuine, b) relate to the individual, and c) authorize the individual to work.

The Form I-9 is available in Spanish, but can only be submitted in Spanish in Puerto Rico. In other states, it may be used for reference, but employees will still be expected to submit the English-language version. Those in need of translators will need to fill out the preparer/translator section.

Is there a new I-9 form for 2020?

You may have heard that the I-9 was updated in 2020! That may seem like big news, but the truth is the revised version has few changes. Look for the edition date at the bottom of the page on the form and the instructions.

If you’re wondering if there will be an updated i-9 form 2021— don’t worry! The current version expires on October 31, 2022, and will continue to be in use until that time.

Documents for I-9 Verification: List of I-9 Documents

For I 9 employment eligibility verification, employees must provide documents that verify a) their identity and b) their employment eligibility. Some documents provide both, for example:

List A

  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
  • Foreign passport with an I-1551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation
  • Employment Authorization Document with a photograph (I-766)
  • For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work: a foreign passport and either Form I-94 or Form I-94A with their arrival-departure record and work endorsement

A more thorough list of I-9 acceptable documents can be found on the last page of the I-9 instructions.

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Identification for the I-9 Form 

If an employee can not show any of the above, they can show two of the following, one from List B, to verify their identity, and one from List C, to verify their eligibility.

List B (I-9 forms of id needed)

  • Driver’s license or ID card issued by a state or U.S. territory
  • ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies
  • School ID with a photograph
  • Voter registration card
  • Military or military dependent ID card
  • U.S. Coast guard Merchant Mariner Document Card
  • Native American tribal document
  • Driver’s license issued by the Canadian government

List C (I-9 eligibility to work)

  • An unrestricted Social Security account number card
  • Original birth certificate issued by the U.S.
  • Certification of the report of birth issued by the Department of State
  • U.S. Citizen ID Card
  • ID Card for resident citizens in the U.S.
  • Native American tribal document
  • Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

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 must have their I-9 re-verified with each extension.

Form I-94 Employment Authorization in the United States

If you are in a special class, you may still be wondering, what documents do I need for I9? A nonimmigrant alien authorized to work for a specific employer must show a foreign passport with either Form I-94 or Form I-94A, demonstrating an arrival-departure record and work endorsement.

Refugees can meet the employment eligibility requirement by showing a Form I-94 with the red stamp indicating employment authorization. Finally, asylees (those granted asylum in the U.S.) can present an unrestricted Social Security card, employment authorization card, or I-94 that has a red stamp indicating employment authorization.

Most other new hires will need to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) from the Department of Homeland Security.

There is no filing fee for completing the I-9. Instead, those struggling to provide the necessary immigration documents may be able to file a Form I-912 to request fee waivers for certain USCIS services.

Completing Form I-9 During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 crisis, more workers than ever are getting hired from afar. Can an I9 form be completed electronically?

With the USCIS-affiliated E-verify system, employees can complete their I-9 form electronically. Afterward, employers retain the information on file. The E-verify system compares information from the employee’s form I-9 with information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records.

In order to fill out I-9 electronically, an employee must have a social security number.

On September 15, 2020, DHS extended flexibility or I-9 form requirements. With this, employers will not need to review the employee’s authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. However, employers still must inspect the documents remotely. Once normal operations resume, the physical inspection will take place and employers can enter COVID-19 as the reason for the inspection delay.

To stay on top of I-9 developments during these unusual times, check out Form I-9 Related News.

Employment Forms California

Onboarding in some states is famously a little difficult, with many employment forms California. In addition to the employment forms IRS requires, such as Form W-4 for federal income tax withholding, employers will also need Form I-9 to verify employee work eligibility.

To make sure that they don’t miss a step in onboarding, businesses may turn to HR software that will streamline their workflow and automate the onboarding process. An electronic document manager then makes sure everything is on file for the requisite three years, protecting employers from hefty fines.

The right software certainly makes it easy to stay compliant!

Stay Compliant with the help of Factorial HR!

Written by: Valerie Slaughter

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