Why an I-9 Form Is Important (And How to Fill One Out)
Hiring new employees can be exciting but also stressful. Between wondering if you chose the right candidate to whether you’re offering the right benefits, making sure you’re filling out an I-9 form correctly might not cross your mind. These documents are legally required and making an error can have serious consequences.
Learn how to properly fill out an I-9 form below.
What Is an I-9 Form?
American employers are legally responsible for employment eligibility verification. This is done with an I-9 form, a legal document filled out by both employees and their new employers.
The form is not optional. Failure to complete an I-9 on time and accurately can result in fines or other legal ramifications for employers.
Both employees and employers can sometimes struggle to complete the form correctly, whether due to unfamiliarity or a language barrier. Learning how to properly complete an I-9 form is a wise step for employers to take.
Filling Out an I-9 Form
Once you have the proper documentation and understand its requirements, filling out an I-9 form is not difficult. If you’re currently struggling with completing a form or just want to make sure you’ve been playing by the rules, here are step-by-step instructions to follow.
Step 1 – Document overview
There are three sections on an I-9 form. Not all are filled out by the employee and not all may be required.
- Section 1 is filled out prior to or on the employee’s first day of employment. The employee fills in the boxes according to their labels, like name and birth date, and marks their current status (citizen, noncitizen, or alien). The bottom of the section is only completed if the employee needs assistance or an interpreter to fill out Section 1.
- Section 2 is filled out by the employer and must be completed within three business days of the employee’s start date to be compliant. This section reports the documentation used to verify the employee’s identity.
- Section 3 is used for noncitizens.
It’s completed by the employer and only used if an employee has been rehired (e.g., after a maternity leave of longer than a year) and documentation needs to be confirmed or if their current documentation has expired (e.g., a work visa). When filling out dates, keep in mind they must be in the 8-digit format (e.g., 01/01/2019).
Step 2 – Proper documentation
After the first section has been filled out by the employee, the employer needs to view their documentation to fill out the second section. There are several different forms that can be used, including, but not limited to, the following:
- U.S. Passport
- Permanent Resident Card
- Driver’s license
- State ID card
- Voter’s registration card
- Social Security Account Number card
Click here for a full list of eligible documents, and to understand the scenarios in which one or two documents are required.
Step 3 – Document validation
The final step is for employers to validate the documentation provided to them. Copies are not acceptable forms of identification. If you suspect falsified identification, you can report your concerns. There are online tools you can use to help verify documentation.
Additional I-9 Information
Still have questions about the I-9 form? You’re not alone. Here are some common questions and concerns about the document.
Are there any situations where an I-9 form is not needed?
Yes. If an employee was hired before November 6, 1986 for standard employment, they will never be required to fill out a form while employed under the same employer. Also, independent contractors and those not physically working in the United States are not required to fill out a form. Certain positions may not require an I-9 form either, like nannying or cleaning private homes.
If an employee leaves and then returns to the same employer, do they need to fill out another form?
I-9 forms are valid indefinitely if an employee remains at the same employer. Should they quit, be terminated, or take leave, any of which result in an absence of longer than one year, they will need to fill out a new form.
What if I make a mistake on the form?
Strike a single line through the error, write in the correct information, and initial and date the change.
Can interviewees be asked to fill out an I-9 to save time?
I-9 forms can only be requested once employment has been offered. Having potential employees fill out the form can fall under discrimination and result in litigation.
Remember, the I-9 is legally required and needs to be accurately completed within three days of employment. To avoid serious legal consequences, make filling out an I-9 form properly and on time a priority in the hiring process.