How to Fill Out an I-9

The I-9 form was created to help employers get the information they need from new employees. It helps to demonstrate the employee's legal eligibility to work in the United States. This form requests a variety of information and documentation to prove that employees can work legally.

I-9 Form Sections

There are three sections to the I-9 form.

Section 1 is for the employee. It establishes the employee's identity and is filled out by him or her. It includes:

  • Employee's full name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Email address (optional)
  • Telephone number (optional)

There is a check box in the section that must be completed. This is where employees indicate their status as a citizen or their legal right to work in the country. Section 1 is completed when the employee signs and dates the bottom of the form.

Section 2 is filled out by the employer. It describes the type of documents permissible for proof of eligibility to work in the country. The employer must:

  • Verify these documents
  • Note which documents they reviewed
  • State the employees starting date
  • Sign and date the form

Section 3 is used by employers when they are re-hiring a previous employee. This is to re-verify the employee's legal work status. Keep in mind that if the re-hire date is within three years of the time that the original form was completed, employers may either complete section 3 or have the employee fill out a new I-9.

Filling Out Section 1

In some cases, an employee may require help completing the first section of the I-9 form. This may happen in the case of:

  • Minors
  • Disabled employees
  • Employees who need translation

If this happens, preparers or translators who are helping the employee must include their name and address. At the end of the form, they are also required to sign and date the I-9.

Filling Out Section 2

Section two of the I-9 should be completed by the employer within three days of employment.

Employers are not required to make a photocopy of the documents presented, but they can if they would like.

Occasionally, employers may have employees that do not have a document available from list A. If this happens, the employee must provide two forms of identification–one from list B and one from list C.

Using Section 3nks

There are specific instances when you may need to fill out section 3 of the I-9:

  • The work authorization for the employee has expired
  • The employee has had a name change
  • The employer has re-hired the employee
  • The box stating, "An alien authorized to work" is selected in Section 1
  • The work authorization for the employee is nearing expiration, but the employee is eligible to work under a new work authorization or on a different basis.

Acceptable documents for Part 2

There are several documents employers can accept for the I-9.

If employers are presented with an item from list A, they only need one form. Documents on list A:

  • U.S. passport
  • Alien registration receipt card
  • Permanent resident card
  • Employment authorization document that includes a photograph
  • Foreign passport that is stamped with a temporary I-551 stamp
  • Foreign passport and I-94 form (for nonimmigrant aliens with work authorization)
  • Non-expired endorsement of the non-immigrant status
  • Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands

If employees do not have any of these documents, they will need to provide one proof of identification from list B and one from list C. List B includes:

  • State issued ID card
  • Driver's license
  • School ID with picture
  • U.S. military card
  • Voter registration card
  • Military dependent ID card
  • Native American Tribal document
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine card
  • Canadian government-issued driver's license
  • Hospital record (for minors only)
  • Report card (for minors only)
  • Day care or nursery school record (minors only)

List C includes additional documentation:

  • Social Security card
  • Certification of report of birth issued by the Department of State
  • Certification of birth abroad issued by the Department of state
  • Original or certified copy of birth certificate
  • U.S. citizen ID card
  • Native American tribal document
  • ID card for use of resident citizen in the U.S.
  • Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security

Section 3 Reminder

Fill out section three when re-hiring an employee or establishing authorization to work in the U.S. Don't forget to include information from the documents you obtain, such as the new employment authorization date and the document title.

Additional Information You Need to Know About the I-9

Keep in mind that employers are required to keep all I-9 forms on file for at least three years from the original hire date, or a single year from the last day of the employee's tenure with the company. Employers who are unable to produce I-9 forms when requested may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties.

When signing the I-9 form, both employers and employees attest that the required documents have been reviewed and all the information and documentation is accurate and genuine. This is a binding, legal document and you are signing under the penalty of perjury.

It is illegal to use the information employees give while filling out the form to attempt to discriminate against them. I-9 forms cannot be offered to potential employees until they are offered a position.

If the information is not properly collected, I-9 forms are not kept properly, or the forms are used by the employer to commit fraud, there are severe penalties. These penalties can include up to six months in prison and fines up to $16,000 per incident or violation.

Employers are responsible for holding on to the I-9. The only time anyone else should get the form is if a government agency would like to review it, or if the employee made mistakes on the form. Clerical errors and other small mistakes must be fixed and turned back in to the employer within 10 business days.

If either an employee or an employer has trouble with the I-9 form and needs more information, a lawyer can help. Another option is getting help from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Employers using E-Verify must obtain and keep photocopies of the documents presented. Companies that don't yet use E-Verify do not have to keep copies of the documents. However, if an employer chooses to keep copies, this must be done for all employees.

Complete an I-9 With These Tips

  • I-9 forms should never be completed before the employee is officially hired. Having employees fill this out in advance of their employment may be seen as a discriminatory practice.
  • The I-9 was revised on Nov. 14, 2016. Use this as it is the most current form.
  • I-9 forms can be filled out with a PDF offering interactive fillable sections. Employers must print out the filled in document because both the employee and employer must physically sign it.
  • When filling out the I-9 on a paper copy, use blue or black ink.
  • Never use a pencil for the I-9 form.
  • Stick to one pen if at all possible. Never use different types or colors of ink.
  • Document expiration dates should always be written in the month/day/year format.
  • White out should never be used on an I-9.
  • Scratching out mistakes is a bad idea. It's better to ask for a new copy of the sheet.
  • When a new I-9 form is required and the employee still works for the company, staple the old and new forms together.

Keep in Mind When Completing Section 1

Before the first day of work, but after employees have accepted the position, they will need to fill out the I-9 form. Employees fill out section 1. Make sure to highlight the employee sections on a paper I-9, so that employees don't miss crucial information or boxes.

Employees must fill out all the personal information, including their physical address. Keep in mind that P.O. boxes are usually unacceptable for the address.

Ensure that employees select the correct employment eligibility checkbox. If additional information such as USCIS or Alien Registration number is required, employees need to include this information. When using a PDF for the I-9, employees cannot complete this citizen status information.

If a translator or preparer is used, employees are required to indicate this. The translator or preparer is required to include name, address, signature, and the date.

Phone number and email address are optional fields. All other fields are required.

Employees who do not have a middle name, initial, or maiden name can use N/A or a dash in this section.

Address must include the city, state, and ZIP code.

If any information is incorrect or missing, employers should offer a new I-9 form, allowing the employee to start over. However, employers should not ask for documentation to prove Section 1 is correct.

Dates should all be written in the month/day/year format.

Keep in Mind When Completing Section 2

Acceptable documentation to prove employment status include either one document from list A or two documents, with one from list B and one from list C.

If an employee offers a document from list A, employers should not fill in anything under the list B or C sections.

Review the documents and verify:

  • The title of the document
  • Who issued the document
  • The document numbers
  • The expiration date of the document (if applicable)

When using a PDF, employers have drop down menus to choose the document type, the issuing authority, and other information requested for these documents.

Make sure to verify and record information including:

  • The start date, or estimated start date of the employee
  • The representative for the company's signature
  • The representative for the company's title and name
  • The name and address of the company
  • The date this information is reviewed and entered

Keep in Mind When Completing Section 3

In the event that employers need to fill out section 3, they cannot directly tell employees which documents they need to produce.

Employers must certify that they reviewed the original documentation, which looked to be genuine. In addition, the employer must ensure the picture or written description of the employee matches the employee offering the documentation.

Documents must be original and unexpired.

Photocopies of documents are not acceptable. Employers should only accept original documentation or certified copies in the case of a birth certificate.

Social Security numbers cannot be 000-00-0000, 123-45-6789, or start with a 9. These numbers are invalid.

Keep in mind that the application for a Social Security card does not count as an acceptable form of identification. However, if the employee presents a document from the Social Security Administration stating that the employee has had his or her card stolen or lost and has applied for a replacement is acceptable.

Employers can review DHS Form M-274 Handbook for Employers for more tips and information.

If section 3 is being filled out because of a name change, the employer must complete the new name area, then sign, and date the section.

When an employee is re-hired within three years of the original date of completion for the I-9, employers must fill in the rehire date and sign and date the section.

When an employee's work authorization needs to be reverified because of expiration of previous documents, the employee is required to show new documents which prove the employee is legally allowed to work in the country. Employers must then review this documentation and record any relevant information such as the new expiration date and document number. Then, the employer must sign and date the section.

When re-submitting documentation, the employee does not need to show the original documentation. They can choose any documentation from lists A and C.

Section 3 can only be used once. If section 3 is required again for the same employee in the future, use a new I-9 form, then staple the old and new forms together.

Updates and Changes to the I-9

The most current I-9 form must be used. Currently, the most up-to-date version was issued on Nov. 14, 2016.

The new, two-page I-9 is considered easier to understand, according to USCIS. This form gives more complete instructions, more space, and the information required is the same.

Page 1 of the re-designed I-9 is entirely section 1. Sections 2 and 3 share the second page.

The 2016 version of the form started to request information when a translator or preparer is used. When using the PDF form of the I-9, there is the option for more than a single preparer or translator.

Electronic I-9 forms became available with the release of the 2016 version of the document. Employers can offer a fillable PDF with interactive support for employees. This is beneficial for many because there is a help button offering more information on what is needed. In addition, the PDF includes warnings when specific information is not listed or inconsistent throughout the document.

In the 2016 form, the PDF version includes a QR code, which can capture and track information, making the audits of these forms quicker and easier.

Section A offers three total boxes for the document and expiration in the most current version of the I-9. The third field is generally used for foreign exchange students, or others whose authorization to work is shown across multiple documents.

There is additional space for extra information in the 2016 I-9 form. While this space can be used as needed, it is recommended that employers do not take notes here regarding the employee.

An updated M-274 Handbook for Employers was released along with the 2016 updates. This handbook should be reviewed and shared with employees working directly with I-9 forms.

In 2013, the I-9 form started including the optional telephone and email address boxes. Updated language in this version of the form also requests the Alien registration number/USCIS number, rather than just Alien number, which was previously used. This adds clarity and makes the section easier to understand.

Because employees were frequently signing the preparer/translator box in section 1, a stop sign was included in the 2013 version to cut down on this.

On Page 2 of the 2013 form, employers will find instructions and a box to list the name of the employee. Keep in mind this must exactly match what is on Page 1. The 2016 update includes a spot for the employer to acknowledge and identify the citizenship status of the employee.

The most significant changes to the I-9 were issued on March 8, 2013. These changes included reformatting, expanding the I-9 to cover two pages, and adding or clarifying instructions.

The employee start date was moved from the statement of certification to its own line in 2013. This is because it was frequently missed. Now it is a more visible box and not as easily forgotten.

A 2013 wording change re-titled Section 3 Reverification and Rehires. Previously it was called Updating and reverification. The new name is clearer and more concise.

Social Security Card Information

Not all Social Security cards are valid for employment purposes. Some Social Security cards state "not valid for employment purposes" right on the card. In addition, if the card is laminated, it cannot be accepted.

While employees can obtain a printout directly from the Social Security Administration that includes Social Security information, this is not a valid or acceptable replacement for an official Social Security Card.

Procedure for Correcting Mistakes

If a mistake is made on the I-9 or other important document:

  1. Draw a line through the incorrect information (it is essential that the information can still be read, however)
  2. Make the necessary change
  3. Date and initial the change

Talk to a Lawyer about I-9 Forms

If you need help understanding or going through your I-9, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies such as Google, Stripe, and Twilio.