Finding the answers to Form I-9 questions can be challenging, and the information can be confusing, unless you know where to look. There are more than 15 pages of instructions and a 69-page handbook that provides details on how to properly complete the Form I-9. In addition, there is an entire body of case law related to Form I-9 compliance.
It’s important for employers and employees to be as detailed as possible when completing Form I-9, as fines for mistakes can be as high as $2,156 for a first offense, and an employer subject to a Form I-9 audit can be fined up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The step-by-step guide below will cover the different sections of the Form I-9, to ensure that employers and employees can complete the form as accurately and completely as possible.
What Is Form I-9?
Form I-9 is a three-page form that is used to double-check the identity and employment authorization status of an individual employee. This form is presented together with several kinds of documentation, which serve to prove that the information provided by the employee is correct. The form is also checked by authorized government personnel during inspections to ensure that illegal migrants are not employed and not taken advantage of at their work.
Contrary to popular belief, Form I-9 doesn’t have anything to do with tax. As stated earlier, Form I-9 is issued by the USCIS, not by the IRS. Some tax-related forms are the W-2 for employees and 1099 for independent contractors.
Form I-9 and The E-Verify System
That said, if there’s one thing that’s associated with Form I-9, it’s the E-Verify system. This voluntary Internet-based system allows employers to easily compare information from Form I-9 with existing government records. E-Verify is also free to use, though it requires employees to present List B documents with their photograph. On top of that, the system doesn’t cover the reverification of expired employment authorization documents.
I-9 Form Sections
The First Page: for Employees
Section 1, which takes up the entire first page of Form I-9, is designed to be filled out by employees. Employers should give this form as soon as the person accepts a job offer, but not later than the worker’s first day at work. This is to ensure that employers won’t discriminate against a hire due to that person’s immigration status.
The first part of Section 1 is pretty standard: blanks for the name, address, date of birth, contact information, and the US Social Security Number (SSN). Only the contact information—email address and phone number—are optional.
The SSN is required if employers are part of the E-Verify system. However, employees who have applied for but have not yet received their SSN can simply leave the field blank, as long as they can still meet the other Form I-9 requirements.
On this page, employees should also check one of four boxes declaring their citizenship and work authorization status.
The options are:
- A citizen of the United States
- A non-citizen national of the United States
- A lawful permanent resident
- An alien authorized to work
The second option, non-citizen nationals of the United States, cover persons born in American Samoa, specific citizens of the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and certain children of noncitizen nationals born abroad.
Meanwhile, a lawful permanent resident pertains to those who are not U.S. citizens, but reside in the United States as a legal immigrant. The term includes conditional residents but not asylum-seekers nor refugees.
Last but not the least are aliens authorized to work, which simply covers anyone who is not a citizen, nor a national, nor a lawful permanent resident of the United States. This covers most foreigners working on American soil, plus certain citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau. Asylum-seekers and refugees also fall under this category.
Those who fall under this category should provide their Alien Registration Number (A-Number) or USCIS Number in the fields provided.
Once the first page is completed by the employee, Form I-9 is submitted to the employer. The partially completed form should be returned to the employer before the first day at work ends. Within three business days, the employee should then submit certain documents to support the information provided on the form.
Pages 2 and 3: for Employers
With the submission of Form I-9 and the accompanying documents, the responsibility now falls on the employers to verify if the information provided by the new hire is true. To do so, employers should check the documents provided by the employee, according to the three categories of identification papers listed on Page Three.
The three categories are as follows:
- List A, or Documents that Establish Both Identity and Employment Authorization
- List B, or Documents that Establish Identity
- List C, or Documents that Establish Employment Authorization
For employees, the best option would be to present something from List A, as they would only need one document from this category. Included in this category are the following:
- U.S. Passport
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551)
- Foreign passport, with temporary I-551 stamp or printed notation, on machine-readable immigrant visa
- Employment Authorization Document with photograph (Form I-766)
- Passport from either the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall
- Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A, indicating non-immigrant admission
Meanwhile, those who do not have these documents in List A can present one item each from List B and List C. List B includes driver’s license or photo ID cards issued by federal, state, or local government agencies. Meanwhile, List C includes the Social Security Account Number card, birth certificate (Forms FS-545 or DS-1350), U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197), and Native American tribal documents.
That said, some employees may not be able to provide the necessary documents within three days of submitting the I-9 form. For example, an employee may have lost a driver’s license that could’ve have been used to prove their identification for this form, and the replacement hasn’t arrived yet. In these special cases, employers can temporarily accept receipts to fulfill these requirements. Employers would then need to update the form once the original document becomes available.
Storing The I-9 Form
While it is a very important form, employers do not actually need to send the I-9 to at the USCIS or even the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Simply keep it on file for each employee who’s required to complete the form, as it will only be checked by authorized U.S. Government personnel when necessary. These include officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and Department of Labor. The form should be kept on file either three years after the employee was hired or for one year after the end of employment, whichever is later. Forms can be kept in different formats: paper, microform, and electronic. While smaller businesses can easily comply by retaining only the paper Forms I-9, electronic recordkeeping for this form is a must for bigger enterprises with thousands of employees.
Thankfully, there are many commercially-available systems built just for this purpose, including the one offered by Emptech. These electronic systems merely need to comply with Department of Homeland Security standards. The systems should be also built in such a way that they would not restrict any United States agency from accessing or using it.
That said, there is no need to update the form itself with other information after it was first filled out except for some circumstances. These include the expiry and/or renewal of some List A or C documents, such as a work authorization or visa, or a change of name. This additional information will go into Section 3 of the form, on Page 2, which is reserved specifically to be filled out for reverification and rehires.
Since the form doesn’t need to be submitted to any government office, there is no filing fee required. Form I-9 is free to download from the USCIS website.
I-9 for Minors
If you’re employing a handful of teenagers at your store, that doesn’t exempt you from dealing with Form I-9. A minor is anyone defined under the age of 18. While you can still legally employ them, there will just be some modifications to how they fill out form I-9.
For starters, if the minor does not have any identity document from List B, they cannot sign their signature in the “Signature of Employee” field on the first page. Their parent or legal guardian should be the one to sign this field and should write “Individual Under Age 18” underneath the signature. That person who signed the Signature of Employee field should then fill out the Preparer and/or Translator Certification field.
Meanwhile, on the second page, employers should again write “Individual Under Age 18” in the Document Title field. Then fill out the form with the information from the List C document that the minor has.
However, if the employer is part of the E-Verify scheme, the minor should still be able to present a List B identity document with a photograph. Minors can also present the following to fulfill the requirements for List B documents: school records or report card; clinic, doctor, or hospital record; or day-care or nursery record.
I-9 for PWDs
There may be some cases where employees who can perform their daily tasks at work, yet due to physical or mental impairments, are unable to fill out Form I-9. This is especially important in the case of non-profits, who may employ visually impaired personnel or those with autism.
As such, similar guidelines for minors and PWDs apply. Persons with disabilities can have a representative help them fill out the form and sign the “Signature of Employee” blank for them. Like the process for minors, the signee should not forget to write “Special Placement” in this field, and accomplish the Preparer and/or Translator Certification section.
This guide only touches upon the most common scenarios employers come across when requiring a new hire to fill out their Form I-9. For more information on special cases, employers can download the 69-page M-274 Handbook for Employers, Guidance for Completing Form I-9 from the USCIS website. This detailed reference covers a wide range of topics, such as document requirements for refugees who are starting a new job and a new life in America.
The experts at Emptech know how to handle all the details regarding your I-9 processing. Allow their administration platform, Optyma, to provide you with the efficiency, consistency, and control that you need to ensure frictionless processing of all Forms I-9. With the platform’s integrated E-Verify functionality, it’s even easier to determine the identity and U.S. employment authorization of prospective employees.
To learn more about Emptech’s I-9/E-Verify complete solution, you can get in touch with us by calling 800.518.3874 or by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.