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Table of Contents

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You are given I-9 documentation that you have never seen before. How do you know if they are acceptable to complete section 2 of the I-9 form? Read on to learn why acceptable documents are important, a brief look at each document, and tips on how to examine the documents.

What Are I-9 Acceptable Documents?

You are responsible for completing an I-9 form for each new hire, whether they are US citizens or not. The employee must provide documents to verify their identity and legal authorization to work in the United States. The information on the documentation will be copied in section 2 of the I-9 form. Acceptable documents are the variety of records allowed by the US Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Why Are I-9 Acceptable Documents Important?

The documents provide the information you need to complete the work authorization process. They demonstrate three important things:

  • Work authorization. Per the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an employee may not work in the United States without authorization via a completed I-9 form.
  • Identity. The form must be accompanied by documentation verifying the identity of each new employee as they begin employment at your company. This protects you from candidates pretending to be someone else.
  • Legal status. HR professionals completing this form need documentation proving the legal status of every new employee. It may be tempting to believe what you are told by new employees, but the risk to your organization is not worth it.

List of I-9 Acceptable Documents

The section will introduce you to the documentation you can accept when completing the I-9 Form. There are three lists: A, B, and C. Employees must show one item from list A, or a combination of one item from list B and one item from list C. These lists are included on the I-9 Form; see one here.

List A Items

These documents prove both identity and employment authorization. Employees do not need to provide any additional documentation when they provide one of these documents.

U.S. Passport

This travel document provides the best proof of an employee’s citizenship and identity. These are issued by the U.S. Department of State.

Permanent Resident Card

Also known as a “Green Card,” this gives an individual the right to live and work in the United States.

Employment Authorization Card (EAD)

Also known as Form I-766, the EAD acts as a temporary work permit and is issued by the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services.

Foreign Passport with Form I-94 or Form I-94A With Arrival-Departure Record

Using a foreign passport requires an additional form: a Form I-94/I-94A. Form I-94/I-94A is issued by the Customs and Border Patrol at the port of entry. Employees need to request a paper copy to bring with them on their first day of employment.

Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A

This document is similar to the Foreign Passport requirement. However, the I-94 form must show nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association between the United States and the FSM or RMI.

Foreign Passport Containing a Form I-551 stamp or Form I-551 printed on a Visa

Flip open the passport and you will find the Form I-551 stamp with the information you need, or it will be on the visa that allows them into the country.

List B Documents

List B Documents only verify the identity of the new employee, so employees also need to provide documentation from List C.

Driver’s License or Identification Card

This document is issued by a US state and provides personal information regarding height, eye color, and place of residence.

School ID Card With a Photograph

This document is issued by a local school or university and must include the employee’s name, picture, and student ID number.

Voter Registration Card

This document is issued by a US state. A voter registration card includes a person’s name and geographical information (i.e., address and voting precinct) along with a document number.

U.S. Military Card or Draft Record

This document, issued by the U.S. Selective Service, includes a registration number and personal information: age, date, place of birth, ethnicity, place of residence at time of registration, and a basic physical description.

Military Dependent ID Card

This document is issued by the Department of Defense and includes some personal information along with a registration ID number.

U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) Card

This document is issued by the United States Coast Guard and shows certification of a Mariner’s qualifications. The information included is a document number with a basic physical description and place of residence.

Native American Tribal Document

This document is issued by a Native American Indian tribe and shows individual membership in the tribe or community recognized by the U.S. federal government.

Driver’s License Issued by a Canadian Government Authority

This document is issued by a Canadian province or territory. This document includes the person’s photo, place of residence, and basic physical description.

List C Documents

List C documents establish an individual’s work authorization in the United States. New employees must also present documentation from List B to complete section 2 of the I-9 Form.

Social Security Card

This document is issued by the US Social Security Administration and printed on banknote paper (not to be confused with cardstock or standard printer paper). This card must be unrestricted: that is, it does not contain the following phrases:

  • Not Valid For Employment
  • Valid For Work Only With INS Authorization
  • Valid For Work Only With DHS Authorization

Cards with these phrases are not acceptable as a List C item. If you receive a card with one of these phrases, politely state that according to federal guidelines, you cannot accept this document, and ask them to bring another document tomorrow.

Original or Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate

This document is issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or outlying territory of the United States, and includes an official seal. The document number is often in red at the bottom of the document.

Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad

This document certifies the birth of a US citizen outside the United States. A child born to U.S. citizens in a foreign country can acquire this document if the parents report the birth of the child to the local US embassy or consulate.

Form FS-545, Certification of Birth Abroad Issued by the U.S. Department of State

Discontinued in 1990, this birth certificate was issued to individuals born to U.S. citizens outside the United States.

Form DS-1350, Certification of Report of Birth issued by the U.S. Department of State

Discontinued in 2010, this birth certificate was issued to individuals born to US citizens outside the United States.

Native American Tribal Document

Issued by a Native American Indian tribe, this certificate shows individual membership in the tribe or community recognized by the U.S. federal government.

Form I-197, U.S. Citizen ID Card

This document was issued in 1983 by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to naturalized citizens who reside in the United States and often cross the border into Canada or Mexico.

Form I-179, Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States

This document is issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Services to naturalized citizens who reside in the United States and often cross the border into Canada or Mexico.

Employment Authorization Document issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

There are a number of documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security that satisfy I-9 requirements:

Some employment authorization documents issued by DHS include but are not limited to Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record issued to asylees or work-authorized nonimmigrants (for example, H-1B nonimmigrants) because of their immigration status, Form I-571, Refugee Travel Document (PDF), an unexpired Form I-327, Reentry Permit, Form N-560, Certificate of U.S. Citizenship or Form N-561, Replacement Certificate of Citizenship (PDF, 40.3 KB), or Form N-550, Certificate of Naturalization or Form N-570, Replacement Certificate of Naturalization (PDF, 176.3 KB). A Form I-797 issued to a conditional resident may be an acceptable List C document in combination with his or her expired Form I-551.

Tips for Examining I-9 Acceptable Documents

Use the following tips when you examine the documents presented to you by new employees. These tips will build your confidence as an HR professional and ensure you fill out section 2 of the I-9 form accurately.

Tip 1: Documents Are Genuine

The document must appear to be genuine. If the employee turns in a copy or a picture of the document, HR cannot accept the document and must ask for another acceptable document.

Tip 2: Only Accept Documents on the List of Acceptable Documents

Any document not on the list of acceptable documents should not be accepted for any reason.

Tip 3: Use the USCIS Website

Click here to see pictures of each of the documents discussed so you are not caught off guard or hesitant when you receive I-9 documentation from employees.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About I9 Acceptable Documents

Receipts for new documentation provide a 90-day grace period for the employee who is waiting for a replacement document of a List A, List B, or List C item. Also, the Form I-94/I-94A departure or arrival form can be considered a receipt.
Click here to download the form. (https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/forms/i-9-paper-version.pdf) Click here to download the form in Spanish and other resources. (https://www.uscis.gov/i-9)

Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.

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