What is Form I-9?

Employment eligibility verification form that must be completed by all employees.

Jeffrey Mo avatar
Written by Jeffrey Mo
Updated over a week ago

Navigating the hiring process involves various legal requirements, and one crucial aspect is ensuring your employees' eligibility to work in the United States. The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of their employees and was enacted on November 6, 1986. The Form I-9, officially known as the Employment Eligibility Verification form, is a key document to help employers satisfy the requirements.

In this comprehensive article, we'll walk you through the purpose of Form I-9, how to complete it accurately, and important considerations for employers.


I-9 federal requirements

As part of the employment onboarding process, U.S. employers are required to verify the eligibility of their employees to work in the country. In order to achieve this, both employees and employers must complete their parts of Form I-9.

Part of completing the I-9 includes having employees provide documents to verify their identity. Employers must accept valid documents employees provide from Lists A, B, and C. They can’t ask employees to provide specific documents or reject a document that may have an expiration date in the future.


Completing Form I-9

All employers must complete Form I-9 for every employee they hire to work in the U.S. While the Spanish-language Form I-9 is available as a reference, employers outside of Puerto Rico must complete the English-language Form I-9. Only employers in Puerto Rico can complete the Spanish version of Form I-9.

Section 1: employee information and attestation

The employee must complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 with their personal information. Any fields that do not apply to them should be left blank.

The employer must provide the Form I-9 Instructions and the list of acceptable documents to all new employees. The list of acceptable documents are listed on page 2 of the Form I-9.

If the employee had someone help them complete their Form I-9, then that individual must complete the Preparer and/or Translator Certification on page 3 of the Form I-9.

Supplement A: Preparer and/or Translator Certification for Section 1

Any individual that helps the employee complete Section 1 must complete the Preparer and/or Certification for Section 1 on page 3 of Form I-9. This also includes individuals that translated the Form I-9 to employees. The Form I-9 allows multiple people to certify that they helped the employee complete Section 1.

Employers are required to keep a copy of the Preparer and/or Certification for Section 1 with the employee’s completed Form I-9.

Section 2: employer or authorized representative review and verification

The employer must complete Section 2 of the Form I-9. Completing this section requires the employer to review the employee-provided documents confirming their eligibility to work in the U.S. within 3 business days of the employee's date of hire.

It is recommended to physically review the documents. If the option to physically review the employee’s I-9 documents is not available, employers can follow the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) approved alternative procedure to examine the documents.

If an employer verified the documents using a DHS approved alternative procedure, the checkbox must be checked, confirming that an alternative procedure authorized by DHS to examine documents was used.

Please note that at this time only employers who currently participate in E-Verify are eligible to use the alternative procedure to review the employee’s provided I-9 documents.

Employee responsibility

As part of the employee’s requirement for Section 2, they must present documents confirming their identification and eligibility to work that are original, acceptable, and unexpired. Employees can present documents of their choosing from the following:

Employers must accept the documents as long as they appear to be original and confirm the employee’s identity. While it is not a requirement to make copies of the employee’s documents, it is highly recommended to do so and keep with the employee’s Form I-9.

DHS approved alternative procedure

Please note that at this time, only employers who currently participate in E-Verify are eligible to use the alternative procedure to review the employee’s provided I-9 documents.

Employers who participate in E-Verify can choose to use a DHS approved alternative procedure to verify the employee’s I-9 documents, as long as they create an E-Verify case for all employees.

The DHS approved alternative procedure requires employers to do the following:

  • Set up a live video chat with the employee, which allows you to see the employee show their I-9 documents on camera for your review.

  • Complete Section 2 of Form I-9, confirming that an alternative procedure authorized by DHS to examine documents was used.

  • Keep the completed I-9, including any copies you made of the employee’s I-9 documents provided from Lists A, B, and C, for your records.

  • Create an E-Verify case.

Reverification and rehires

Supplement B, Reverification and Rehire, requires employers to complete it when an employee’s work eligibility documents need to be reverified or the employee has been rehired. Employers should not reverify U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or approved documents from List B.

Reverification is only required if the documents provided from List A or C have expired. Employers should complete the reverification process prior to the expiration date. Employees do not have to provide the same type of document that was previously provided when they were first hired. Employees can choose from the list of approved documents they would like to provide as part of the reverification process.

If an employee is rehired within three years of completing their Form I-9, you can have them complete Supplement B, Reverification and Rehire. As long as the documents previously provided have not expired, you do not need to reverify the employee’s documents.

Check out the Handbook for Employers M-274 for more information about employee reverification.


Verify the I-9

As part of the onboarding process, you can confirm that you verified the employee’s I-9 documents in Fingerheck.

  1. Log in to Fingercheck as an Admin.

  2. Click the Employees tab.

  3. Select an employee by clicking on their Employee Number or Name.

  4. Select I-9 from the side menu.

  5. Verify the employee’s I-9

    1. View the employee’s I-9 documents they uploaded during their onboarding by clicking on the images.

    2. Enter the document details:

      1. Issuing Authority

      2. Document Number

      3. Expiration

    3. Use the toggle switch to indicate you used a DHS approved alternative procedure to examine the employee’s I-9 documents.

      This toggle will check the checkbox under Section 2 of the employee’s I-9 confirming you used an alternative procedure to verify the documents.

  6. Certify that you reviewed the employee’s I-9 and documents.

    1. Enter your signature using your finger or mouse.

    2. Enter your name and title.

  7. Click Next to continue with the employee’s onboarding process.

  8. Click Activate to complete onboarding the employee.


I-9 compliance

Employers must keep completed Forms I-9 for all employees:

  • Employees who worked less than two years retain their form for three years after their date of hire.

  • Employees who worked more than two years retain their form for one year after their employment ends.

Employers can choose to store completed Forms I-9 on paper or electronically, just as long as the forms can easily be found and remain legible for review at a later time.


I-9 and E-Verify differences

E-Verify uses information from Form I-9. There are some key differences in requirements between E-Verify and Form I-9.

E-Verify requirements

Form I-9 requirements

Participation is voluntary for most employers

Mandatory for all employees to complete

The employee’s SSN is required to submit an E-Verify case

The employee does not need to have an SSN to complete the form

The identification document must include a photo from List B

Identification document is not required to include a photo from List B

CAN’T be used to reverify employee work authorization due to expired documents

Must be used to reverify expired employment authorization

Learn more about the E-Verify process.


FAQ

Where do employers submit completed Forms I-9?

Employers do not submit completed Forms I-9. Instead, employers should have procedures in place to store completed form for the required amount of time.

How do I correct a mistake found on Form I-9?

Correct mistakes on Form I-9 as follows:

  • Draw a line through the incorrect information.

  • Enter the correct information.

  • Initial and date the correction.

Employers are not allowed to make corrections to Section 1. If a mistake is discovered in Section 1, the employee must correct it.

If there are multiple corrections needed, a new form can be completed as long as the old form is saved with the new form.

Is Form I-9 required for remote hires?

Yes, even for remote hires, employers must ensure that Form I-9 is completed. There are specific guidelines for remote verification, including using an authorized representative.

How long should employers retain Form I-9 records?

Employers must retain Form I-9 for three years after the date of hire or one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later.

Can electronic signatures be used on Form I-9?

Yes, employers can use electronic signatures on Form I-9, provided they comply with the regulations outlined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Are there penalties for non-compliance with Form I-9 requirements?

Yes, employers can face fines and penalties for failing to properly complete, retain, and make Form I-9 available for inspection during audits.

These FAQs offer general information about Form I-9, but employers should refer to the latest guidelines and consult legal professionals to ensure compliance with current regulations.


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