I-9 Form

Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald
The I-9 form may look like boring paperwork, but don’t be fooled: it is a very important part of the hiring process and has legal consequences. Read on to learn more about the I-9 form and how to fill it out properly.

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What Is an I-9 Form?

The I-9 form verifies an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States for any employer.

Why Are I-9s Important?

I-9 forms protect your organization from criminal prosecution. I-9s are important for:

  • Compliance with the law. The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires all employees hired after November 6, 1986, to have a completed I-9 form.
  • Audits. HR audits occur to ensure the employee files are up to date and correct. Failure to have a completed I-9 will result in a fine of up to $2,332 for every missing/incomplete form.
  • Risk mitigation. Confirming every employee has a complete and up-to-date I-9 form mitigates the risk of fines and potential legal cases against the company.

Who Needs to Fill Out an I-9?

Every employee in an organization needs to fill out an I-9 Form, whether they are a resident or nonresident of the United States.

How to Fill Out an I-9 Form

Filling out an I-9 form properly, without missing any sections, is critical to avoiding fines. This section provides instructions on filling out the I-9 form properly.

Step 1: Section 1 and Documentation

The employee fills out Section 1 on the first day of employment and presents acceptable documentation within the first three days of employment, proving their identity and their authorization to work in the United States.

Acceptable documentation can come from List A (these items show identity and work authorization), or from List B and List C. List B documents prove the identity of the new employee while List C documents prove the employee is authorized to work in the United States.

Step 2: Section 2

The employer examines the documentation provided by the employee and uses that to complete Section 2 within the employee’s first three days of employment. The documentation must be actual documents, not pictures or copies of the documents. If an employee provides a copy or picture, they can still provide other documentation—or a receipt for new documentation—within the first three days of employment.

An employee who provides a receipt is given a 90-day grace period to provide the new documentation to HR.

Be sure both you and the employee sign and date the form.

Step 3: Updates

When an employee’s work authorization expires or there is a legal name change, the employee should bring new documentation to HR. In that case, HR completes Section 3.

What to Do with Completed I-9s

All I-9 forms should be retained for three years after the hire date or for one year after the last date of employment.

Store these documents safely. Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) already create employee files, and you can securely upload the documents to the platform.

If your organization does not have HRIS software in place, avoid keeping hard copies in your office. Partner with your IT team and see if they can help you create a shared drive that is private to HR, a SharePoint site, or another option to electronically store I-9 forms. Once the forms are completed and stored electronically, shred the original form.

How Long Should I-9 Forms be Stored?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services recommends the following form to calculate how long you should keep the I-9 Form:


Sample I-9 Form

Download an I-9 Form from USCIS.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About I-9 Forms

How often should I-9 forms be updated?
The I-9 should be updated when an employee’s documents for work authorization expire. This applies to both citizens and noncitizens.
What are the legal penalties for not having an I-9 for every employee?
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/legal-requirements-and-enforcement/penalties) , punishment includes civil fines and/or criminal penalties as well as being excluded from government contracts.
Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald

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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