As an employer, one of your most important responsibilities when hiring a new employee is to properly complete Form I-9. It sounds simple, but it can be easy to make a mistake. Here are five basic points to remember. 

1. All employers need to use Form I-9

All U.S. employers must verify the employment eligibility and identity of each employee hired to work in the United States by completing Form I-9 for every employee, including U.S. citizens. It is not required for independent contractors, but it is against the law to contract for labor knowing that the contractor is not authorized to work in the U.S.

2. Newly hired employees must complete Form I-9 no later than first day of work

Employers may not begin the Form I-9 process until an individual accepts an offer of employment. Newly hired employees must complete and sign Section 1 of Form I-9 no later than the first day of work for pay. The employee must present to the employer an original document or documents that show his or her identity and employment authorization within 3 business days of the date employment begins. Copies of these documents are not required to be on file, however, if employer chooses to make copies, all employee files should be consistent.

3. Employers must complete Form I-9 within three business days of employee’s first day. 

An employer must use the documents presented by the employee to complete and sign Section 2 of Form I-9 within 3 business days of the first day of work for pay. Among other things, employers are required to physically examine each document to determine if it reasonably appears on its face to be genuine and to relate to the employee presenting it. If a document does not satisfy these criteria, the employer should reject it and allow the employee to present other acceptable documentation.

4. Form I-9 must be kept for a certain amount of time after an employee leaves.

 Employers must keep an employee’s completed Form I-9 for as long as the individual works for the employer. Once the individual’s employment has terminated, the employer must keep the Form I-9 until the later of:

  • 3 years after the date of hire, or
  • One year after the date employment is terminated

These forms may be stored on paper or electronically. Keep in mind that Forms I-9 collect personal information about individual employees, so adequate safeguards should be in place to protect that information, regardless of how it is stored. To facilitate an inspection request, it is recommended that these forms be kept separate from personnel records, such as in a binder.

5. Not completing Form I-9 may lead to penalties. 

Hiring employees without complying with the employment eligibility verification requirements is a violation of the law. Employers that fail to properly complete or retain Forms I-9 could be subject to civil money penalties of up to $1,100 for each violation.