I-9 Form: What is it?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 mandates that all U.S. Employers, including small businesses, certify the legal work status of their Employees through the Employment Eligibility Verification, also known as the I-9 form.

Here are the basics that you need to know: 

  • This form reports and verifies an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States. Employers must maintain accurate I-9 records to avoid fines and inspections by government officials.
  • Form I-9 must be completed by both the Employee and the Employer:
    • Every employee must fill out this form before their hire date. 
    • Employers must complete Section 2 of Form I-9 within 3 business days of the hire date.
  • The form must be retained on file for all current Employees, and for three years from the hire date or one year from the termination date, whichever is later, for former Employees.

This article will cover how to complete an I-9 form, including acceptable documents, by breaking it down by its' two sections.

Section 1 - To be completed by Employee

In this section, the new employee attests to their legal authorization to work in the United States by filling out Section 1 of Form I-9. This section requires personal details and the employee's stated citizenship status, which can be one of the following:

  • Citizen of the U.S.
  •  Non-citizen national of the U.S.
  • Lawful permanent resident 
  • Alien authorized to work in the U.S.

The employee must complete and sign Section 1 of the form by the end of their first day of work. Therefore, the process can begin as soon as the employee has accepted an official job offer.

Section 2 - To be completed by the Employer 

Section 2 of Form I-9 is the employer's responsibility and must be completed and signed within three days of an employee’s start date. In this section, Employers must review the documents provided by the employee to verify their eligibility to work in the U.S.

Here are the key requirements: 

  • Within three days of the employee's first day of employment, review the documents they present. These documents must be originals, not copies, and can come from either List A or a combination of List B and List C.

    List A: These documents establish both identity and employment authorization.
    • U.S. passport or U.S. passport code 
    • Permanent resident card or alien registration receipt card 
    • Foreign passport with temporary I-551 stamp
    • Employment authorization document (with photograph included)
    • A Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands passport 
    • Non-immigrant aliens authorized to work may provide a foreign passport and Form I-94, along with an unexpired endorsement of non-immigration status

    List B: These documents verify identity only.
    • State-issued driver’s license or ID card (with photo and personal information included)
    • School ID (with photo included)
    • Voter’s registration card
    • U.S. military card or draft record
    • Military dependent’s ID card
    • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine card
    • Native American tribal document
    • Driver’s license issued by a Canadian government authority
    • Employees under the age of 18 who do not have any of the above documents may use the following: 

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

    List C: These documents verify employment authorization.
    • Social Security card (unless the card says: not valid for employment, valid only for work with INS authorization, or valid for work only with DHS authorization)
    • Official certification of birth abroad(Form FS-545)
    • Certification of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form DS-1350)
    • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of the U.S. that has an official seal
    • Native American tribal document
    • U.S. citizen ID card (Form I-197)
    • Identification Card for use of resident citizen in the United States (Form I-179)
    • Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security
  • Record the employee's information, including their name and immigration status, along with the title, issuing authority, number, and expiration date (if applicable) of each document provided.
  • Note the employee’s first day of employment on the form.
  • By signing Section 2, you attest under penalty of perjury that you have examined the documents and to the best of your knowledge, they appear genuine and the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. If you choose to make copies of the documents, you must do so for all Employees consistently.

The USCIS provides a complete list of acceptable documents for further reference.

Reverification and Rehire (formerly Section 3) - To be completed by the Employer

You'll complete the third part of the form if re-hiring someone within three years of their original I-9 date. In such cases, you must re-verify their work authorization. For Employees hired outside this period, a new I-9 form is required. This section is also used to re-verify work authorization for certain current Employees before their documents expire.

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