According to the Immigration Reform and Control Act, all employers must verify the identity and employment authorization of employees working in the United States, who were hired after November 6, 1986. This verification process is documented by completing and retaining Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, regardless of the employee’s immigration status, meaning that both American citizens and noncitizens must have a form on file.
Even though completion of Form I-9 is designed to be simple, there are quite a number of details that both employees and employers must be careful about in order to ensure thorough compliance with all federal requirements. Therefore, it is important to understand Form I-9, its sections and the guidelines necessary to follow in order to ensure compliance.
What Is Form I-9 Used for?
All employers in the U.S. are required to complete Form I-9, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) document that verifies an employee’s identity and employment authorization.
The form is completed by employees as well as their employers or authorized representatives. A valid employment authorization must also be attested by the employee, along with acceptable documentation proving their identity and eligibility to work.
To conduct Form I-9 verification, employers have to examine the employment eligibility, identify the documents presented by an employee, assess their authenticity and record the document information on the Form I-9.
Form I-9 Compliance Guidelines
Any individual hired for work in the United States is required to complete Form I-9. Individuals are defined as hired once they actually begin employment in exchange for wages or other types of remuneration. However, when it comes to Form I-9 completion, an employer may ask an employee to do so earlier than the date the individual is actually hired, as long as the job has been offered and has been accepted by the employee.
Also, employers are required to fill out Form I-9 with complete accuracy and abide by the specific instructions and compliance policies. In order to meet this requirement, they have to understand what Form I-9 is comprised of.
The form has two main sections that need to be completed by both the employee and the employer. A third section is used for re-verification purposes or when rehiring an individual. It is critical for employers to carefully fill out and proofread the form to prevent any clerical mistakes that can result in costly fines.
What Is Form I-9 Section 1?
Section 1 of the form, Employee Information and Attestation, is filled out by employees no later than the first day of employment, but not before the job offer is actually accepted. This section is designed to establish an individual’s identity, thus requiring employees to provide a set of information, including:
- Complete name;
- Date of birth;
- U.S. Social Security Number;
- Email address; and
- Telephone number.
A subsection of Section 1 requires employees to attest under penalty of perjury that they are qualified to work in the United States because they are any of the following:
- A US citizen;
- A noncitizen national of the US;
- A lawful permanent resident; or
- An alien who is authorized to work in the US.
If translators or preparers help employees fill out the Form I-9, they also need to sign and date the form and provide their address.
Before employers complete Section 2, they should review Section 1 to ensure an employee completed it properly. If they find any errors in Section 1, employers should have the employee make any necessary corrections and initial and date the corrections.
What Is Form I-9 Section 2?
Section 2, Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification, is filled out by an employer or their authorized representative within three business days of the date when an employee is hired. This section is a summary of the documents that the employer has evaluated in order to verify the identity and the eligibility of the employee to work in the United States.
Employers are required to inspect the documents presented by the employee physically. Unless they participate in E-Verify, there is no requirement to keep photocopies of the documents presented. However, if they decide to make copies of the documents, it is necessary to do so for all employees, regardless of national origin or citizenship status, or they may violate anti-discrimination laws.
Employees can present either:
- One document from List A; or
- A combination of one selection from List B and one selection from List C.
If an employee presents a List A document, employers cannot ask or require them to present List B or List C documents. At the same time, if an employee presents List B and List C documents, employers cannot ask or require them to present a List A document.
What Is Form I-9 Section 3?
Section 3 of Form I-9 is used when rehiring an employee, documenting an employee who has had a legal change of name, or reverifying employment authorization.
If employers rehire an employee within three years from the date that the Form I-9 was previously completed, they may either complete Section 3 on the employee’s previously completed Form I-9 or complete the same in a new Form I-9. If the employee remains employment authorized as indicated on the previously completed Form I-9, they do not need to provide any additional documentation.
When an employee’s employment authorization expires, employers must reverify to ensure they are still authorized to work. Reverification in Section 3 must be completed before:
- The expiration date, if any, of the employment authorization stated in Section 1; or
- The expiration date, if any, of the List A or List C employment authorization document recorded in Section 2.
Changes to Form I-9 Compliance Requirements
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced flexibility in complying with the physical inspection requirement for Form I-9 documents. In addition to this, the DHS issued a temporary policy permitting employers to rely on expired List B identity documents used to complete Form I-9.
While employers are no longer permitted to accept expired List B documents as of May 1, 2022, Form I-9 remote verification flexibility has been extended numerous times, with the latest extension lasting through October 31, 2022. With the constantly evolving rules, employers need to review their I-9 forms and verification processes to ensure continued compliance, especially if they adjusted their document inspection protocols during the pandemic.
Form I-9 requirements require careful attention by employers to ensure compliance, especially given the changes introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking this into consideration, it is critical for employers to understand Form I-9, its importance and the necessary compliance requirements. To simplify and manage the process of onboarding new hires, employers can streamline employment eligibility verification and Form I-9 compliance by relying on the convenience of technology solutions. As a result, they can ensure seamless processing of the new hires, make informed decisions with the support of Form I-9 subject area specialist and eliminate errors, omissions or discrepancies in data. Automate Form I-9 management to ensure compliance and eliminate cumbersome paper forms that can be difficult to manage, store and audit internally.