What is an I-9 Form and How to Complete It 
February 26, 2023
As an employer in the US, you’re probably familiar with what an I-9 form is.
An I-9 form is mandatory for all business owners hiring individuals for work and for citizens and noncitizens recruited for employment in the US. It’s a key document you must fulfill if you want to avoid penalties, protect your business from long-term repercussions, or push through with your employment.
In this article, you’ll learn what the I-9 form is for, who should fulfill it, and what documentation and requirements it entails.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
- An I-9 form (Form I-9 or Employment Eligibility Verification) is a work authorization document that helps verify an employee’s authorization to work in the US.
- New recruits and rehires are required to fulfill an I-9 form, while independent contractors are not.
- The failure to correct errors in an employee’s Form I-9 and supplemental documents is subject to penalties and serious repercussions.
- Fulfilling the I-9 form includes a list of acceptable documents that employees must submit to their employers, categorized into List A, List B, and List C.
What is an I-9 Form?
An I-9 form (or Form I-9) is a type of government form meant toverify and evaluatewhether employees are legally permitted to work in the US. It is also referred to as the “Employment Eligibility Verification.”
Employers, newly hired employees, and rehires are required to complete the said work authorization document, regardless if they are hired to do a full-time or part-time job.
History of I-9 Form
Form I-9 was created when the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed into law on November 6, 1986, in the US. The said law was a response to the growing need for stricter and firmer regulations to curb illegal immigration and unauthorized employment.
The IRCA is an effort to help retain work for all people authorized to have jobs in the US—American citizens and aliens alike. Since the IRCA drastically changed immigration laws in the US, employers are expected to identify undocumented workers and take the appropriate action to resolve the undocumented status of their staff.
Who is I-9 Form For?
The I-9 form or Employment Eligibility Verification, applies to newly hired employees. It helps verify whether an employee is authorized or legally allowed to work in the US.
Employment Eligibility Verification remains effective for as long as an employee or individual works with the intention of receiving any form of payment. All employers are mandated to complete and keep track of their employees’ Form I-9. They might also share these documents with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Immigrant & Employee Rights Section (IER), and other government agencies upon request.
An exception to Form I-9 is if an employee is an independent contractor. Independent contractors are those who run independent businesses, work for several clients at a time, or are tasked with completing projects through a project-based or non-permanent contract.
Failure to Complete I-9
The failure to complete all requirements that Form I-9 entails is subject to criminal or civil violations.
Civil violations are issued when the employer commits document fraud or fails to rectify uncorrected technical errors. These errors are subject to penalties ranging from a minimum of $252 per I-9 to a maximum of $2,507 per I-9 for the first offense.
Second and subsequent offenses are subject to penalties that range from $1,161 to $2,322.
A criminal violation may be issued to the employer if they have been found to have been actively participating in recruiting and referring employees who are unauthorized to work in the US, all while charging employees a fee.
The penalties for recruiting, rehiring, and referring unauthorized employees range from $627 to $5,016 for the first offense and up to $25,076 for subsequent offenses.
A Breakdown of I-9 Sections
The I-9 form consists of three key sections:
Section 1 (Employee Information and Attestation) is to be completed by employees no later than the first day of their employment. They may also complete this section before the commencement of their employment upon their acceptance of the job offer.
Under Section 1, employees must provide the following information:
- Full legal name, including any hyphen or apostrophes, along with middle name or middle initial.
- Other legal names, such as maiden name (if applicable)
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number
- Contact information, email address, and phone number
- Immigration or citizenship status
- USCIS, alien number, foreign passport number including country of issuance and expiry date of employment authorization, or Form I-94 admission number
Employees must sign the form and add the date when the form was completed. If needed, they may seek the assistance of a translator or a preparer.
If the employee does not seek a translator's or preparer’s assistance, they can simply tick the box that says, “I did not use a preparer or translator.”
Section 2 (Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification) is accomplished by employers.
Employers must complete Section 2 within 3 business days upon the employee’s hired date. If an employee is hired to do a job that does not take longer than 3 days, then employers should have Section 2 finalized within the same day that the worker is employed.
Section 3 (Reverification and Rehires) is also completed by employers on behalf of the employees. This is typically done when an employee is rehired or requires confirmation of the authorization of their employment.
Required Documentation for the I-9 Form
Below is a list of acceptable documents for completing Form I-9. These documents are subdivided into three categories, namely, List A, B, and C.
List A includes documents that establish the employee’s identity and employment authorization. If employees can present the following documents under List A, they are not obliged to present any other document:
- US passport or US passport card
- Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card or Alien registration receipt card
- Form I-766 or Employment Authorization Document Card
- Foreign passport with Form I-94 or Form I-94A with arrival-departure record plus an endorsement to work
- Foreign passport containing a Form I-551 stamp or a Form I-551 printed notation
It is important to note that when it comes to Form I-551 and Form I-551, the USCIS redesigns the cards every 3-5 years to protect against fraud and counterfeiting.
Cards that bear either the old or new design remain valid until the card reaches its expiration date. The cards’ expiry dates are also disregarded if the PRC has an automatic extension for their validity period.
List B documents establish identity only. Employees who choose to present documents from the List B category must also present a document from List C to accommodate Section 2 on the Form I-9. These documents include:
- Driver’s license or state-issued identification card (ID cards issued by any outlying territory of the US are also accepted)
- ID card issued either by local, state, or federal government agencies
- School ID with photograph
- Voter Registration Card
- US Military Card or draft record
- Driver’s license issued by Canadian Government Authority
- Military dependent’s ID card
- US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) card
- Native American tribal document
Individuals who are under the age of 18 may present the following documents as an alternative:
- School record or report card
- Daycare or nursery school record
- Clinic doctor or hospital record
Special notations may also be used byminors and individuals with disabilities who cannot produce acceptable documents under List B.
List C documents establish employment authorization. If employees present documents from List C, they are also required to provide any of the documents from List B.
- US Social Security Account Number Card that does not contain any restrictive wording such as “Not valid for employment,” “Valid for work only with DHS authorization,” and “Valid for work only with INS authorization”
- Form FS-240 (Consular Report of Birth Abroad)
- Form FS-545 (Certification of Birth Abroad) issued by the US Department of State
- Form DS-1350 (Certification of Report of Birth) issued by the US Department of State
- Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or outlying territory of the US that bears an official seal
- Native American tribal document
- Form I-197 (US Citizen ID card)
- Form I-179 (Identification card for the use of resident citizen in the US)
- Employment authorization document issued by the Department Of Homeland Security
How to Complete an I-9 Form
Here are some key pointers to take note of when completing an I-9 form:
#1. Ask the Employee for a Signature
The employee’s signature is crucial because it attests that all information they have provided in the form is 100% true. See to it that they affix the exact date when the form was filled out next to their signature.
#2. Review Your Employee’s Documents
Always double-check that all required information is duly provided by the employee. Check that the spelling, address, and contact information are all correct. You must also verify whether the identification cards and documents are authentic and have not yet reached their expiration dates.
#3. Make a Copy of all the Files
Create a copy of all files submitted by your employee for future reference. It will prove useful in case the original documents are misplaced or if government agencies conduct an inspection.
#4. Fill out the Rehiring Section
Filling out the re-hiring section applies when the employee’s work authorization expires. It is also applicable if the employee legally changes their name or gets rehired within three years after the I-9 form was originally fulfilled.
I-9 Form FAQ
#1. How to get an I-9 Form?
I-9 forms are downloadable through the USCIS website. You can also call the USCIS toll-free number, 1-800-870-3676.
#2. What is the purpose of an I-9 Form?
An I-9 form is created and mandated to help verify the authorization of an employee, whether they are a US citizen, an immigrant, or an alien, to work in the US.
#3. What happens when you don’t complete the I-9 Form?
Employees who fail to complete the I-9 form could potentially have their employment suspended or prevent themselves from being hired for any future job. Employers who do not comply with the regulations in Employment Eligibility Verification are subject to criminal or civil violations with corresponding penalties.
Full compliance with fulfilling Form I-9 is beneficial for both employers and employees. US-based employers who conform to the prerequisites for hiring new personnel create a favorable impression of trustworthiness and integrity for their company.
As for employees, complying with all Form I-9 requirements guarantees their legal qualifications and fitness to fulfill the job role that they applied for. It also protects them from unfair labor practices and scams. Finally, it helps them maintain a clean employment record, which could prove useful for future job opportunities.