A Brief Guide to I-9 Compliance

If you’re an employer in the United States or an individual who has worked at a job in this country, then you might have some knowledge of the I-9 form. The I-9, or the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, is needed to verify the identity of an employee and to ascertain that a worker is legally eligible to accept employment in the US. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides this form to employers, whose employees must fill out the form and provide the required supporting documents. It’s important for employers to ensure the form is completed correctly with all of the necessary documentation.

Why is compliance so important?

Total I-9 compliance is crucial for several reasons. If you’re a newly hired employee, you can be fired if you don’t provide the required documents within three business days of your start date. If you’re an employer, failure to comply with I-9 requirements could result in a range of civil and even criminal penalties, including fines, debarment from government contracts, and imprisonment. When you knowingly hire or continue to employ an unauthorized worker or otherwise violate the requirements, you open yourself up to these consequences. You could also face penalties for trying to anticipate whether a job candidate is authorized to work in the US before you’ve seen any supporting documents.

Who must complete the form?

The I-9 form is not meant to determine citizenship, but to verify whether an individual is authorized to work in the US. Citizens and noncitizens alike must complete the I-9 once they are hired. All employees working in the US must complete the form whether they are hired for full-time, part-time, or temporary employment. The employer must also complete the form and verify the supporting documents.

What documents are legally required?

Certain documents are typically used to establish an employee’s identity and employment authorization. These are organized into different sections on the back of the I-9 form. For instance, an employee might produce a US passport, permanent resident card, driver’s license, voter’s registration card, social security number, or birth certificate, among others. The employer must check the original documents to ensure they are valid and genuine, but the employer cannot specify a preference for any particular documents (such as a Green Card). The documents must then be photocopied and attached to the I-9.

Where and when do we file the form?

The new hire’s physical presence is required alongside the employer while they complete the form. Form I-9 is not filed at USCIS but kept on file by the employer. Job applicants don’t need to file an I-9 form, but newly hired employees must complete the form before they can work for wages or other compensation.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to keep a Form I-9 for every current employee and refrain from abusing those documents. You must keep the I-9 either for 3 years after the hire date or 1 year after the employment is terminated (whichever is later). Make sure every section of the form is filled out correctly, and ascertain that every piece of documentation is unexpired and valid in the US. It is also wise to conduct regular self-audits of your I-9 files to purge old forms you no longer need and ensure all forms you are required to have on hand are readily available and properly completed. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always seek the counsel of a knowledgeable immigration attorney. The attorneys at Sánchez-Roig Law Firm, P.A. can provide you with the guidance you need to ensure all aspects of your I-9 process are compliant with all relevant laws. Give us a call today to learn more.