How to Avoid I-9 Noncompliance


Emptech's founder, Jeff Aleixo


Jeffrey Aleixo


Federal law obligates employers to fill out an I-9 form for each employee, ensuring the new hires are lawfully entitled to hold a job in the U.S. To many employers, the I-9 may appear to be a simple two-page piece of hiring paperwork but its simplicity is illusory. This detailed guide will help your company avoid I-9 non-compliance.

This form must be handled with utmost precision and individual attention in order to avoid I-9 non-compliance, as Form I-9 errors are very common and can cost you an arm and a leg.

Unlike many other forms on which an error can be easily corrected, the I-9 errors can result in heavy fines and penalties, even if the employer did not hire someone not authorized to work in the country. Not having a properly completed I-9 form can result in fines of up to $2.1k per employee, so making sure it is completed accurately and on time for every new employee has to be your top priority.

Avoid I-9 Noncompliance with Proactive Measures

1. Respecting deadlines

Accurate and timely completion of the Form I-9 is essential to compliance with federal regulations and failure to do so can result in substantial fines for employers. Taking into consideration that one of the biggest problems can be avoided by being aware of the I-9 deadlines, you need to make sure to act in accordance with them.

Best practices are as follows:

  • You must complete and date Section 1 no later than the first day of employment and no earlier than the acceptance of job offer.
  • According to the infamous three-day rule, you must complete Section 2 of the form three days latest after the employee begins work for pay. In case that the employee works for fewer than three days, you need to verify identification documents on the first day of work for pay.
  • When an employee’s employment authorization document expires, the employer must re-verify the employee’s employment authorization no later than the date the employment authorization expires, and use Section 3 of the Form I-9 for this purpose. Also, when rehiring an employee within 3 years of the initial completion of the I-9, Section 3 may be completed instead of a new I-9.
  • As an employer, you must keep completed I-9s on file for each employee on payroll and must retain (together with retaining) original I-9 Forms for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later.

Adhering to these deadlines can help you avoid problems and fines, and avoid I-9 non-compliance.

Learn everything you need to know about verification of work eligibility, proper completion of the Form I-9, and avoiding costly mistakes with this comprehensive guide.

2. Missing I-9s

Many I-9 noncompliance issues stem from incomplete I-9s or missing forms. Failing to maintain correctly completed I-9 can result in various fines, reduced workforce, negative publicity, and criminal liability. You can avoid missing I-9s by storing your I-9s in the same place. The easiest way to do this is by automating I-9s and storing them electronically so you can always easily find them.

3. Clerical Errors

A simple misspelling or a clerical error on an I-9 can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars during an I-9 inspection. If you think that this can’t happen to you, think again because Form I-9 mistakes are much more common than you may expect.

Federal law applies two central types of errors – technical and substantive violations.

Technical errors, for example, consist of common misspellings and failing to ensure the document numbers provided in Section 1 correspond to the same document numbers provided in Section 2 or Section 3.

Substantive violations range from employees’ failure to sign in Section 1 to employers’ failure to re-verify on or before the date on which the employee’s current work authorization expired. If the failure is technical, the employer may be granted a 10-day grace period to correct the failure. If the failure is substantive, there is no grace period to make a correction.

Consider adopting the practice to periodically audit and make any necessary corrections to the I-9s. These periodic self-audits and corrections will assist you in demonstrating a good-faith effort to comply with the law in the event of a government audit.

Here are additional tips to help you avoid common clerical mistakes:

  • Check your I-9 forms to guarantee all Sections are complete;
  • Review dates provided prior to filing the Form I-9 to ensure dates were not mixed up;
  • Check the SSN provided in each space to ensure that numbers are the same throughout the document.

4. Incomplete I-9s

The most common I-9 clerical error lays in incomplete I-9s.

Clearly marked corrections of certain errors on the Form I-9 are usually allowed. However, it is prohibited to erase any incorrect information, back-date, or recreate any of the documents. When you make corrections it is very important to cross out wrong information and insert the correct or missing information by using a different color of ink.

Make sure every correction is initialed and dated by the person allowed to make the permitted correction. In addition to this, employers should keep Form I-9 files separately from general employment files in order to protect employees’ confidential information, prevent possible allegations of document abuse, and be able to easily produce I-9s if needed.

5. E-Verify Compliance

E-Verify is an internet-based system that allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees and is likely to become mandatory nationwide.

E-Verify works by electronically comparing the information from an employee’s form I-9 with records available to the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security to verify the identity and employment eligibility of each newly hired employee.

Many employers incorrectly think that E-Verify is the electronic equivalent of form I-9. The two work together to validate that an employee is authorized to work in the U.S. However, E-Verify does not replace Form I-9.

You may receive a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) when either the Department of Homeland Security or Social Security Administration identifies something entered on the I-9 as not matching their records.

Even though you cannot always avoid TNCs, there are a few things that you can do as an employer to reduce the chances of receiving them:

  • When completing the Form I-9, always make sure that the information entered by the employee is correct.
  • Check to ensure that the identification documents that they provided for Section 2 have the same information as what was given in Section 1. This will not only prevent avoidable TNCs, it will also prevent potential fines if your organization’s Forms I-9 are audited in the future.
  • Be careful not to make any mistakes in your data entry when copying information from the Form I-9. Always double check the information before submission.
  • If an employee is aware that they have had a change in their information such as their name, citizen/immigration status, or anything else that is relevant, they should make sure that the information has been conveyed to the proper agencies.

The Best Way to Handle I-9 Compliance

Do you want to prevent common and costly penalties reaching $2,100 per employee?

Replace paper-based forms that require a lot of administrative coordination and are highly prone to errors and violations with a cost-effective and cloud-based I-9 platform.

You can create trackable, cloud-based, and compliant I-9s in seconds by relying on our cloud-based electronic system that is fully integrated with E-Verify and an official partner with USCIS. Thus, you virtually eliminate criminal and civil liabilities and significantly reduce the inevitable risk of errors.

The electronic platform removes the administrative burden from both you and your employees while assessing, improving, and maintaining your I-9 compliance. At the same time, you can enjoy full transparency with round-the-clock online access to activity tracking and reports.

Ensuring compliance is a complicated, time-consuming, and continuous task that involves various I-9 non-compliance risks. That is why you’ll have a dedicated team of analysts at your disposal at all times. The electronic solution powered by human subject matter experts is the simplest, fastest, and most effective path to your peace of mind.

USCIS regulations permit, and even encourage, electronic employment eligibility verification.

Avoid I-9 non-compliance risks, save up to 2.1k per employee, and have audits result with positive outcomes with the electronic solution that drives compliance, cost-effectiveness, and allows your HR team to focus on your most valuable resource – your employees.

Learn how the electronic I-9 verification solution can help you verify the identity and employment eligibility of new hires, speed up the time required to complete new employee forms and ensure compliance with federal requirements.
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