When a U.S. citizen or noncitizen is hired by a U.S. employer for employment in the United States, both the employee and employer must fill out Form I-9, which is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals. Form I-9 is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at http://www.uscis.gov/i-9. This article will provide some basic information about Form I-9 and employer obligations on the completion of the form to verify an individual’s authorization for employment in the United States.

Newly hired employees must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 on the first day of employment, but never before he or she accepts the offer of employment. The employee provides basic information in Section 1 such as name, address, date of birth, and U.S. social security number. He or she must also attest to his or her citizenship or immigration status and present original, unexpired documents to prove his or her identity and employment authorization.

Lists of acceptable documents are provided on page 9 of the instructions. List A documents establish both identity and employment authorization. List B documents establish identity only, while List C documents establish employment authorization only. The employee may present one document from List A or a combination of one document from List B and one from List C. It is important to note that employers cannot specify which documents they will accept from the employee. The employer must complete Section 2 of Form I-9 by examining the presented documents within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment. The law requires that original documents be examined. The employer may, but is not required to, photocopy the documents that are presented. If the employer makes copies of the documents, then copies should be made for all new hires or reverifications. The copies should be kept with the Form I-9.

Completed Forms I-9 must be retained by the employer either for three years after the date employment begins or for one year after the date the employee’s employment is terminated, whichever is later. These forms must be made available for inspection, within three days of the date on which a request is made by officers from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, or the Department of Justice. Employers may keep the completed Forms I-9 with personnel records, but the USCIS recommends keeping these forms separate from personnel records in order to make it easier to comply with an I-9 audit. Furthermore, by keeping the I-9 separate from an employee’s personnel file, the employer would be able to limit other personal information about the employee that might otherwise be available to the inspector if the entire file was handed over.

Civil penalties in an amount of no less than $110 and not more than $1,100 for each violation may be levied upon employers who fail to properly complete, retain, and/or make available for inspection Forms I-9 as required by law.

The USCIS’s Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (Form M-274) answers many, if not most questions that employers have about Form I-9, and provides sample documents that are acceptable for verifying employment authorization and identity. This handbook is available on USCIS’ website at: http://www.uscis.gov/i-9.

Please contact your immigration counsel at S.W. Law Group if you have any questions about I-9 compliance.