1. What is an I-9 Form?: Everything You Need to Know
2. How Is the Information on the I-9 Confirmed?
3. List of Acceptable Documents For I-9 Form
4. Receipt Rule
5. Background on Legislation
6. New I-9 Form Required: What You Need to Know
7. I-9 Form Recertification Process
8. Exceptions to I-9 Form
9. Antidiscrimination Clauses
10. Penalties for Employers Who Hire Unauthorized Workers

What is an I-9 Form?: Everything You Need to Know

What is an I-9 Form? The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), uses Form I-9 to verify a worker’s identity as well as certify that he or she can be legally employed in the United States. Every employee, whether a citizen or not, fills out an I-9. Essentially, it functions as an employment authorization. This form must be filled out by both the employer and employee. No social security number is required on the form.

Three sections exist on the I-9 form, including:

  • Section 1. This section is to be completed by the employee by or before the first day of work for pay. Potential employees complete section 1 of the I-9 form by or before the employee’s start date. Section 1 must be signed and dated or the form is deemed invalid. The employee-required documents must be presented within three business days of being hired. After that documentation is supplied, the employer verifies employment eligibility, identifies the documents as genuine, record the information on the I-9 form, and files the documentation.
  • Section 2. This section is to be completed by the employer by the third business day after which the employee begins working. Employers fill out Section 2 of the I-9 in three business days of being hired. Information recorded consists of: Start date of employment, Title of document, Issuing authority of document, Document number if it has one, and Expiration dates, if any.
  • Section 3. This section is to be completed by the employer if the employee’s work authorization expires.

How Is the Information on the I-9 Confirmed?

The information given in the Form I-9 is confirmed through a process known as E-Verify, which compares information from the employee’s portion of the Form I-9 with data collected from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Other departments that are also contacted once a person becomes hired include the Social Security Administration and the IRS. Some state agencies are also contacted with an employee’s information. In most cases, the E-Verify system and process confirms employment eligibility unless the employee is operating s a freelancer or independent contractor. If this is the case, each company hiring people must have a system in place for determining employment eligibility. For example, each individual contractor has certain instructions and questions to answer, and that information is provided to the IRS. E-Verify covers most mainstream company’s needs, and helps cut down on the fraudulent use of social security numbers and identity theft.

List of Acceptable Documents For I-9 Form

A set of documents exists that confirms whether or not a person can legally work in the United States. If, for whatever reason, those documents were lost original, official copies are available from various government agencies. Your status as a citizen or, alternatively, as a person legally allowed to work in the United States, becomes confirmed with the following documents:

            List A                                           List B                                           List C

Documents that Establish Identity and Employment Authorization

Documents that Establish Identity

Documents that Establish Employment Authorization

U.S. Passport

Driver’s license

Social Security Number without restrictions

Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card

ID card issued by state

Certificate of Report of Birth Abroad from Department of State

Foreign passport with temporary I-551 stamp

ID card issued by federal, state or local government agencies

Birth certificate issued by state, county, municipal authority, or territory with an official USA seal

Employment Authorization Document Form I-766

School ID card with photograph

USA citizen ID Card Form I 0197

Nonimmigrant alien authorized to work foreign passport, Form I-94 or I-94A with endorsement

Voter’s registration card

Identification Cared for Use of Resident Citizen in the USA Form I-179

Passport from Micronesia, Marshall Islands with Form 1-94 or I-94A

USA military card or draft card

Military dependent’s ID card

USA Coast Guard Merchant Marine

Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security


Native American tribal document



All of the aforementioned documents must be valid. Employees can choose one document from List A or a combination of one from List B and one from List C. Documents acceptable for those under 18 include school records, report cards, doctor and hospital records, day care records, and the like. 

A total of 4 categories of legally acceptable employees exist: [1] citizen, [2] national of the United States, [3] a lawful permanent resident, and [4] alien authorized to work in the United States until a specified date. Employers have a duty to view the documents to reasonably determine the validity of the presented documentation. An employer should check to ensure that the information present correlates to the person they are hiring.

Receipt Rule

In some special cases, receipts can become substituted for documents. The receipt rule states that, if the original documents became lost, damaged, or stolen, a receipt of application to replace that document can be accepted. The original must be replaced within 90 days of being hired.

Background on Legislation

Originally, the Federal government ran various programs, like the Bracero Program, that brought immigrants from other countries in for a specified period of time. Industries hired the immigrants and, after the program was dismantled, industries continued the hiring. Other legislation offered a means to continue hiring outside the U.S. legally. By November 6, 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act gave American employers legal responsibility for employment eligibility verification using the I-9 form.

New I-9 Form Required: What You Need to Know

 I-9 continues to become updated and, as of January 22, 2017, the form was changed again. However, employers can still use the previous version. The forms now have a date; I-9 forms with the date 11/14/2016 and forms with the 3/08/2013 have been deemed valid forms.  If re-verifying an employee, then you’ll want to use the latest form. If an audit occurs and you find forms not meeting specifications, then use the new I-9 form to update. If the I-9 form has an older version with documents that are no longer acceptable, do not disregard the form, but instead attach the outdated completed form to a blank new form or sign the current blank version and make a note as to why the new version is being attached to the old version.

I-9 Form Recertification Process

American citizens’ I-9 forms remain valid indefinitely. If a gap in employment occurs for more than one year, then the employee and employer will need to fill out a new form. Students, exchange students, and foreign nationals must fill out a new I-9 form for each extension. A new form must become filled out after an expired visa so to issue a new employment visa. An employer will retain I-9 forms for three years after a worker’s start date and one year after a worker leaves. Employers may want to establish a system that automatically notifies select personnel when their employee’s authorization will expire. Employers will also want to provide employees with a 90-day notice to gather the documents.

Exceptions to I-9 Form

People legally allowed in the United States cannot be terminated or denied work because of origin of citizenship alone. Employers must accept genuine documents. The I-9 form is not needed in these circumstances:

  • If an employee is hired before November 6, 1986 and is working for the same employer
  • If the employee’s job is casual, domestic work like babysitting, cleaning, or nannying intermittently in a private home does not require an I-9
  • Independent contractor’s are not required to fill out an I-9
  • Those who do not physically work in the United States are not required to fill out an I-9

Antidiscrimination Clauses

If an employer has three or more workers, then the Immigration Reform and Control Act applies. Employers are not to use I-9 form as a prescreening device. Documents should not be viewed until an employer officially hires someone.

Penalties for Employers Who Hire Unauthorized Workers

Hiring unauthorized workers results in a fine ranging from $250 to $5,500 per worker, depending on the circumstances. Fraudulent documents that are clearly not genuine carry a penalty of $373 to $3,200 for the first offense. It doubles for each fraudulent document identified thereafter. Employers discriminating based on national origin, citizenship, document fraud, or out of retaliation are subject to fines and other legal repercussions.

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