Most Common Form I-9 Myths


Emptech's founder, Jeff Aleixo


Jeffrey Aleixo

common I-9 myths I-9 compliance

Being an employer entails many responsibilities to the government but properly completing, retaining, and producing Form I-9 is one of the most important obligations. Form I-9 is necessary to verify an individual’s right to work in the USA and requires a careful review of specific types of identification within three days of an employee’s start date.

Proper completion of this form is not an easy task and making sure that employers avoid common Form I-9 myths and mistakes can be arduous. However, given the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intention to continue with increased worksite enforcement, it is obvious that Form I-9 is one piece of paperwork employers need to have in order.

Correct Management of Form I-9

Apart from a significant increase of ICE worksite enforcement, in their 2020 budget, DHS has planned an additional $313.9 million for the hiring of 1,000 officers and more than 600 supporting personnel. With that in mind, now more than ever, businesses have to focus on correctly managing their I-9 forms and take proper steps to prevent costly mistakes.

Employers in the United States are only allowed to employ workers who can prove their identity and eligibility to work in the country. While Form I-9 is primarily used for this purpose, there is much more to it. Employers can have a completely legal workforce but still can incur big fines for paperwork violations. The government wants to make sure that all employers in every industry are following the correct I-9 procedures. As a result, the number of audits and penalties within organizations that did not employ any unauthorized workers is on the rise.

Use this detailed guide to ensure timely and accurate verification of the identity and employment eligibility of new hires and ensure constant I-9 compliance.

Form I-9 Myths and Misconceptions

There are many Form I-9 myths and misconceptions that can bring potential problems to businesses. Therefore, employers need to pay close attention to them and take care of how and when the form is completed. Otherwise, they can face penalties for mistakes that could have been avoided.

Form I-9 Deadlines Are Optional

One of the common Form I-9 myths related to the three-day rule is that employers believe they have up to three business days before they are required to have employees complete Form l-9. However, this rule only applies to the employer portion of the document, Section 2. All employees are required to fill out their portion, Section 1 of the Form I-9, by the end of the first day of work for pay.

Employers should encourage new hires to present identification documents as soon after completing Section 1 of the form as possible, but need to allow them up to three days after beginning work for pay to present identification documents. If employees do not produce proper documents within the three-day deadline, they should be immediately terminated.

When it comes to Form I-9, the three-day rule is inflexible. Backdating the form is not a solution either. It is illegal and carries a hefty penalty for fraud if discovered.

I-9 Penalties Are Negligible

Compliance with I-9 standards is mandatory for every organization and inspections are possible for companies of any size. I-9 penalties vary, depending on the nature of the offense. Substantive violations, such as employees failing to sign the form or an employer not checking personal identification documents, can result in fines ranging from $230 to $2,292 per violation. Knowingly hiring or continuing to employ an unauthorized alien leads to fines ranging from $573 – $22,927. If employers engage in a pattern of hiring unauthorized individuals, they could face criminal penalties of $3,000 per individual and six months in prison.

ICE assesses penalties per form, so depending on the number of forms and violations, the total could be significant. I-9 penalties being minor is one of Form I-9 myths, but in reality Form I-9 is one of the most crucial forms to which employers have to devote their close attention.

Form I-9 Does Not Change

In order to follow Form I-9 compliance guidelines, it is important to use the correct version of the document. Therefore, employers have to check the revision date printed on the bottom right-hand corner of the form, as well as the expiration date.

The current version of Form I-9 expired in August 2019. However, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has advised that employers should continue to use the expired Form I-9 until further notice. Still, once the new version is released, employers have to immediately start using the updated copy.

Form I-9 Can Never Be Destroyed

One of Form I-9 myths is that employers have to keep I-9 forms for all employees. Employers can destroy a former employee’s I-9 records one year from the date of termination or three years from the date of hire, whichever is later. At the same time, disposing of I-9 forms early is considered a violation of the law and can lead to fines and penalties.

When it is time to destroy older I-9 records, employers need to properly dispose of all documents. By doing this, they ensure that an employee’s or former employee’s personal information remains safe.

E-Verify is an electronic replacement of the Form I-9

Even though this is one of the common Form I-9 myths, E-Verify cannot replace the legal requirement to complete and retain Form I-9. Also, participating in E-Verify does not remove an employer’s obligations to comply with the I-9 process. 

E-Verify is a system that allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. E-Verify works by electronically comparing the information from an employee’s Form I-9 with records available to the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security to verify the identity and employment eligibility of each newly hired employee. While Form I-9 is mandatory for all employers, E-Verify is voluntary for most businesses, although many states also require its use.

Preventing Potential I-9 Fines

When it comes to employment compliance, following Form I-9 requirements is of crucial importance. Neglecting I-9 verification guidelines exposes employers to hefty fines and penalties for each violation.

Navigating verification of employment eligibility and Form I-9 compliance can be complicated and time-consuming. Yet, now more than ever, it is necessary in light of the current administration’s increased focus on the enforcement of immigration laws. This is why employers should make sure to avoid usual Form I-9 myths, establish a rigorous system for managing I-9 forms and schedule regular reviews and self-audits to identify potential violations that could result in penalties from ICE in the future. 

Also, an estimated 60-80% of Form I-9s go missing, are incomplete, or contain errors within organizations that use paper forms. On the other hand, outsourcing I-9 verification helps companies stay organized and in compliance by ensuring correct completion of Form I-9, efficient management of expiring documents and document retention, and centralized reporting of a company’s I-9 compliance position at any time. As a result, employers can enhance accuracy, reduce storage and management costs, and save their company from expensive fines and penalties related to non-compliance.

Outsource I-9 verification and stop making costly mistakes while remaining compliant with the latest Form I-9 updates, requirements and deadlines.
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