Form I-9

Frequently Asked Questions About Form I-9



Jeff Aleixo

To ensure compliance with government regulations, and to avoid first-offense fines as high as $2,156, it’s of utmost importance to properly complete and process all Form I-9 and corresponding documentation. Otherwise known as the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, Form I-9 can be used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of anyone hired by U.S. employers, whether that person is a United States citizen or a non-citizen.

Although completion of the Form I-9 is designed to be straightforward, there are quite a number of details that employees and employers must be vigilant about to ensure thorough compliance with all federal requirements. Attention to detail also ascertains that the document is not rendered incomplete, or deemed fraudulent, due to errors that could be easily avoided.

Indeed, proper completion of the Form I-9 is one of the most effective measures that you can take in order to avoid complications later on. To help you become more acquainted with the process, here is a list of the most frequently asked questions regarding this important federal form, along with appropriate answers to these questions.

Form I-9 is provided by the federal government of the United States as a way for employers to verify the identity of employees, as well as to determine their legal status to accept employment in the country. Along with the form, all new hires with U.S. employers are likewise required to provide documents that corroborate their identity and eligibility to be employed in the U.S. The introduction of the form came as a direct result of the policies promulgated under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Form I-9 can be downloaded for free from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website as a PDF File, complete with clickable instructions and fillable fields. The USCIS notes that both typed and handwritten information are acceptable, although only handwritten or electronic signatures are acceptable to complete the form.

Any individual “hired” for work by an employer 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. Nevertheless, an employer may ask an employee complete the form earlier than the date the individual is actually hired, as long as the job has been offered and has been accepted by the said employee.

The document features two sections that need to be filled out separately by the employee and the employer (or an authorized representative of the employer). These are called Section 1 and Section 2, respectively. Section 1 contains a subsection that also needs to be completed when a translator or preparer assists an employee in completing the form. Additionally, there is also a third section called Section 3, which the employer or their authorized representative must fill out for re-verification purposes or when rehiring an employee.

Completion of Form I-9 is only mandatory for certain types of workers. All workers who will receive some form of remuneration, as employees, need to complete the form, unless they will be engaging in casual domestic work.

Employees that are receiving training in the U.S. prior to working in a foreign country also need to complete the form if the company will be paying for the training. Note that completion of the form is still required even if a person is working or attending training for just single day, or even if they are on payroll abroad.

Likewise, company owners who are also employees of their own company should also complete the form. An example would be a business owner who actively performs services for a partnership or a corporation—both separate business entities—and receives payment in return.

If you are hiring an independent contractor to complete a job, you are not required to complete Form I-9 for that contractor. If an independent contractor is a self-employed individual, they are not subject to Form I-9 regulations. If, on the other hand, the contractor is a company that has its own workers, completing Forms I-9 for those employees is the responsibility of that company.

According to the USCIS, individuals who receive training or gain work experience without remuneration don’t have to complete Forms I-9. Unpaid workers can range from volunteers and trainees to interns and residents.

Individuals who are hired to do casual domestic work, those who are working overseas (outside U.S. and U.S. Territories), and those who were hired on or before November 6, 1986, are also not subject to Form I-9 requirements. Similarly, self-employed individuals also don’t have to complete Forms I-9, unless, as previously stated, they are also employed by a separate business entity that they have set up.

For people who are recruiting or referring workers for a fee, completing Forms I-9 is not required unless they belong to any of the following groups: agricultural associations, agricultural employers, and farm labor contractors. All individuals they recruit or refer for a fee must each complete their respective forms.

As previously noted, Form I-9 has two main sections that need to be completed by both the employee and the employer. A third section is reserved for re-verification purposes or when rehiring an individual.

Section 1 of the form—labeled Employee Information and Attestation—is to be filled out by the employee no later than the first day of employment, but not before the job offer is actually accepted. This section is specifically designed to establish a person’s identity, thus requiring the employee to enter a set of information. These include the following:

  • Complete name (Including all other last names used)
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • U.S. Social Security Number
  • Email address
  • Telephone number

This section also contains a subsection that requires the employee to attest—under penalty of perjury—that they are qualified to work in the United States because they are any of the following:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • A non-citizen national of the U.S.
  • A lawful permanent resident (a green card holder)
  • An alien who is authorized to work in the U.S.

The employee is required to sign and date the document. If they need the help of a translator or a document preparer, that assisting individual must also enter their details and sign the document.

Section 2 of the form—labeled Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification—is to be filled out by the employer or their authorized representative within three business days of the date when the employee is hired. This section is basically 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.

Finally, there is also Section 3 of the form, which is to be filled out by the employer only when re-verification is necessary or when rehiring an employee. If the rehire of an employee happens within three years from the date the previous Form I-9 was completed, the employer may simply fill out Section 3 or instead complete a new Form I-9.

There are 3 types of documents that can be presented by employees to employers as proof of their identity and employment authorization. Per the form’s “Lists of Acceptable Documents” attachment, these groups of documents are referred to as List A, List B, and List C. Do take note that employers are required to physically examine either one document from List A or one document each from List B and List C (together).

List A comprises documents that establish both the employee’s identity and employment authorization. These include the following:

  • U.S. passport or U.S. passport card
  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (green card or Form I-551)
  • Foreign passport with temporary I-551 stamp or a printed I-551 notation on a machine-readable immigrant-visa
  • Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766) with accompanying photograph
  • For a non-immigrant alien authorized to work for a specific employer: Foreign passport and Arrival-
  • Departure Record Card (Form I-94 or Form I-94A) that has an endorsement of the person’s nonimmigrant status, as long as the period of endorsement has not yet expired.
  • Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) passport or Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) passport with
  • Form I-94 or Form I-94A detailing nonimmigrant admission pursuant to the Compact Free
  • Association between the U.S. and the FSM or RMI.

Documents under List B establish only the identity of the employee. These include the following:

    • Driver’s license issued by a U.S. state or an outlying possession of the U.S. that contains photograph and other important information
    • ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies that contains photograph and other important information
    • School ID card with photograph
    • Voter’s registration card
    • U.S. Military Card or the person’s 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 agency

Individuals who are under the age of 18 and are unable to provide the abovementioned documents may instead submit the following:

    • School record of report card
    • Hospital, clinic, or physician record
    • Day-care or nursery school record

Finally, documents under List C establish only the employment authorization of an individual.These documents include the following:

    • Social Security Account Number Card, unless the document specifies that it is not valid for employment or if it says it is valid only with authorization from the Department of Homeland
    • Security (DHS) or Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
    • Certification of Birth Abroad (Form FS-545) from the Department of State
    • Certification of Report of Birth (Form DS-1350) from the Department of State
    • Original or certified copy of birth certificate from a U.S. state, county, municipal authority, or territory. The document should bear the seal of the issuing authority.
    • 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 DHS

Employers must accept any document that satisfactorily meets Form I-9 requirements, meaning those that can prove the employee’s identity and employment authorization. The only time an employer may reject a document is if it doesn’t reasonably appear to be authentic, or if it doesn’t relate to the individual presenting it.This means that you can’t refuse to hire a person, based solely, for example, on their capacity to provide a U.S. birth certificate, when that person has other valid documents that can be used to verify their identity and work authorization. Note that rejecting a document that meets Form I-9 requirements may be in violation of anti-discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

The USCIS requires employees to present documents in their original state so that the employers can inspect these documents and determine their authenticity. The only exception is that employees may present a certified copy of their birth certificate. This means that providing photocopies of documents, sending them via facsimile machine, or presenting the documents through video conferencing are not allowed.

In case the employee and the hiring manager are unable to be in the same location during the hire, the employer may hire an authorized representative to perform the completion of Form I-9 on their behalf. For instance, you may get a notary public to examine the employee’s documents and to determine whether these documents reasonably appear to be authentic. One caveat though: the person doing the inspection of the documents should be the same one that signs Section 2 of the form. The notary public can’t examine the documents and then have a company manager sign the Form I-9 later on. Moreover, if you hire a notary public, that person will be acting as your authorized representative, not as a notary. As such, they are not supposed to stamp a notary seal on the form.

Neither the employee nor the employer are required to file the Form I-9 to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or any other agency. All completed forms must be stored and kept on file by the employer for three years after each respective person is hired or for one year following the end of each individual’s employment—whichever is later.

The forms should be readily available for inspection by agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or the Department of Labor, and they must be presented within 3 business days of the date when they were first requested.

Employers are also required to store the documents in a manner that would not compromise the personal information of the employees. As such, all Forms I-9 and supporting documents—whether in paper, electronic, or microform format—should be kept in a safe and secure location.

On top of these most commonly asked questions about the Form I-9, your organization may encounter numerous other details that may greatly impact your capacity for satisfactorily verifying employee identity and eligibility to work in the United States. For larger organizations, most especially, one must ensure that critical errors due to faulty data processing, improper filing and storage, and other oversights are avoided.

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

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