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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.

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 Remote-Only Employees

ICE has extended the flexibility regarding compliance for I-9 Forms through April 30, 2022 >  https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-announces-extension-i-9-compliance-flexibility-3

“This extension will continue to apply the guidance previously issued for employees hired on or after April 1, 2021, and work exclusively in a remote setting due to COVID-19-related precautions. Those employees are temporarily exempt from the physical inspection requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) until they undertake non-remote employment on a regular, consistent, or predictable basis, or the extension of the flexibilities related to such requirements is terminated, whichever is earlier.”

Aside from that, ICE provided the following guidelines for verifying remote employees:
“If the authorized representative refuses to complete Form I-9 (including providing a signature) another authorized representative may be selected. If the employer hires a notary public, the notary public is acting as an authorized representative of the employer, not as a notary. The notary public must perform the same required actions as an authorized representative. When acting as an authorized representative, the notary public should not provide a notary seal on Form I-9.”

Updated December 2018 >  https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/completing-form-i-9-for-remote-hire

It is strongly recommended to follow ICE guidelines, the I-9 Audits performed by ICE I have been through they will specifically ask for the notary public information. Nevertheless, let’s keep an eye on ICE to see if further updates are provided as we get closer to April 30, 2022.

“A lot of places are verifying documents virtually right now. I used Verify I9 in the past as it simplified the process for me as a previous HR leader of one. There are a few other services like this out there also that can take care of this task if you want to be extra compliant  https://verifyi9.com/.” – Bethany Goldson

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:

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Sample I-9 Form

Download an I-9 Form from USCIS.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About I-9 Forms

The I-9 should be updated when an employee’s documents for work authorization expire. This applies to both citizens and noncitizens.

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.

“When I have conducted I-9 audits I make sure to utilize the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. They offer so much information on completing an I-9 audit. Do not back date the documents, but leave notes attached to each explaining why the date is incorrect and what was done to make sure the rest will be in compliance. You can add in information on section 2 if they are missing, but it needs to be initialed and dated. If there is an error in section one, the employee can go back and complete it but they also need to initial and date. (Once again, do not backdate).

I have conducted an I-9 audit and have been audited by ICE. The attached notes were essential for explaining my process and letting them know what I did not make sure all the I-9s were in compliance.” – Samantha Palm

“If an employee’s permanent resident card or other I-9 Documentation expires, they need to renew that same documentation following the same process they got it before.

They can give you a receipt which in turn provides a grace period until the actual card is received and they bring it to you. Then HR can finish section 3 of the I-9 form. Once complete, work authorization is renewed! You can have them fill out a new I-9. Nevertheless, keep both of them on file. ” – 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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