Employment verification form I-9 explained
There are several crucial steps to confirming that a new employee is eligible for work, but perhaps none more important than the Employment Verification Form I-9. Required for all new employees by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office, Form I-9 provides proof of an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Employers must complete an I-9 for all new hires, with penalties ranging from up to $5,500 per unverified employee to imprisonment for false statements.
Form I-9 is updated frequently, so employers are advised to ensure that they have the most current version via the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services site. A PDF copy of the most recent iteration (August 2019) can be found here.
There are two main sections to complete—one for the employee and one for the employer.
Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation
Section 1 must be completed in its entirety by the employee in question. Basic details required include:
- Last, First, and Middle Name
- Other Last Names Used (if applicable)
- Date of Birth
- U.S. Social Security Number
- Email Address
- Telephone Number
Next, and perhaps the most crucial part of the form: the Attestation. Employees must indicate, under penalty of perjury, their U.S. immigration status and whether they are:
- A citizen of the United States
- A non-citizen National of the United States
- A lawful permanent resident
- An alien authorized to work
If an employee’s work status is conditional or date-bound, they must indicate the expiration of their work visa and any other pertinent details about the conditions of their stay.
Also, if an employee uses a preparer or translator to help with the completion of the form, the preparer must fill in their contact information for follow-up in case confusion arises.
Section 2: Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification
In addition to confirming that the information provided by the employee in Section 1 is correct, employers must collect and provide documentation proving the employee’s eligibility to work within three days of an employee’s start date.
As with employees, employers must certify, under penalty of perjury, that the information they’re providing is complete, correct, and in good faith.
Reverification and Rehires
If a new employee is a former hire or otherwise has an expired work authorization, the employer must indicate this and include details about the employee’s current status.
Documents Proving U.S. Immigration Status
This is the most important section of the form for employers, who must collect documents from the employee proving their immigration status. Documents carry different weight for Form I-9, with some serving as complete verification on their own and others requiring supplementary support. There are three categories of documents that can be combined to provide adequate employment authorization:
- Document List A: Proof of employment eligibility and identity
- U.S. Passport or Passport Card
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration
- Employment Authorization Document Card
- Foreign Passport with Endorsement to Work via Form I-94 or I-551
- Document List B: Proof of identity **only (must be combined with a document from List C)
- Current U.S. Driver’s License
- Canadian Driver’s License
- Federal, State, or Local ID Card
- School ID Card with Photograph
- Voter Registration Card
- U.S. Military Card or Draft Record
- Military Dependent’s ID Card
- U.S. Coast Guard’s Merchant Mariner Document (MMD)
- Native American Tribal Document
- Document List C: Poof of employment eligibility only (must be combined with a document from List B)
- U.S. Social Security Account Number Card
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- Certification of Report of Birth by the U.S. Department of State
- Original or Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate Bearing an Official Seal
- Native American Tribal Document
- U.S. Citizen ID Card
- Identification Card for Use of Residents of the U.S.
- Employment Authorization Document Issued by the Department of Homeland Security
Penalties for Non-Compliance or False Statements with Employment Eligibility Form I-9
Strict penalties are in place for employers who fail to adequately complete Form I-9 or knowingly include false information. The specifics for associated civil and criminal negligence in I-9 reporting can be found here.
Major points for employers to note are also listed here, but key considerations include:
- Employers are required to store Form I-9s for all employees on the payroll for a period of three years following their date of hire.
- The fines for hiring an unauthorized worker range from $250 to $5,500 per worker.
- Employers violating I-9 requirements can also be barred from receiving federal contracts for up to a year.
- When completing an I-9, employers are prohibited from:
- Hiring employees who they know are unauthorized to work in the U.S.
- Discriminating against new employees on the basis of country of origin or citizenship status
- Requesting documents not required to complete the Form I-9
- Retaliating against employees who file charges for discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status
Completing a Successful I-9 Verification
Hiring a new employee is an expensive process, but employers can help avoid costly penalties by complying with all U.S. regulations for work authorization. Form I-9 remains the most important part of the employment verification process, so employers should ensure that they have a process in place for secure storage of the forms and all associated documents.
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