9 Crucial Facts to Know about I-9 Forms 

PRemployer on January 6, 2023

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As a small business owner, it's essential to be aware of I-9 forms. These forms verify employment eligibility and worker identity, so everyone must fill one out. Make sure you keep the forms safe, as you'll need them for proof of employment eligibility. Here are nine crucial facts to know about I-9 forms. 

1. All eligible residents must fill out the form 

Form I-9 must be filled out by all U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens alike, regardless of their immigration status, who are employed in the United States. You must complete form I-9 within three days of hiring a new employee. Employers must keep all I-9 forms on file, per regulations.

2. Contractors Do Not Need to Fill Out the Form 

If you are hiring a contractor, they do not need to fill out the I-9 form. Contractors are considered self-employed individuals and do not require employer verification because they aren't an employee of your company. 

Recruiters do not need to fill out I-9 forms for individuals they recruited unless required by the U.S. Department of Labor or the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). For example, agricultural associations, agricultural employers, and farm labor contractors must follow specific requirements to maintain their legal status with the government.

3. Failure to fill out the form may result in termination 

Employees who fail to fill out Form I-9 may be subject to termination. Employers are responsible for ensuring their employees are eligible to work in the United States. If an employer discovers an employee failed to complete the form, they should take immediate action and terminate the employee's employment.

4. Companies have protections if an employee is unauthorized 

If an employer discovers a worker is unauthorized to work in the United States, they have certain protections under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This act states that employers may not be held liable for hiring individuals who are unauthorized to work if they can prove they conducted a reasonable investigation. The company has protections for hiring an employee whose eligibility comes into question later. By their understanding, nothing is wrong, and they won't be punished for being misled.

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5. Employees choose which documents to present for verification 

Employees are responsible for determining which documents they will use to verify their identity and employment eligibility. Employers must accept any documentation that is presented as long as it appears to be valid. Employers should never request additional documents or ask an employee to provide specific documents. If a worker presents a driver's license and social security card, the employer cannot request a passport instead.  

The employer must accept any valid document from the list, even if it is not their preference. The only exception will be if an employee presents a document that appears fraudulent or tampered with in some way.

6. Filling out social security numbers is only required for E-Verify  

When filling out Form I-9, you do not need to enter the employee's social security number. However, if you use E-Verify to check an employee's work authorization status, you must enter their social security number. It adds a layer of verification when you cannot fill out the form in person.

7. Employees must provide original documents 

Employees must provide original documents when presenting documents to verify their identity and employment eligibility. Photocopies or scans are not accepted, and employers should not accept them. Employers also cannot require an employee to present a specific document—they must accept any valid documentation that is presented. 

Whether you or another employee, the person verifying the documents must do so by physically examining the documents. They don't need special qualifications; they only need to look at and hold the documents to verify their authenticity. There was a Covid-19 exception to this process where verification could occur over a live video call, but that exception has been revoked.

8. Employees do not need to fill out a new form if changing positions in the same company 

Employees who change positions within the same company do not need to fill out a new Form I-9. Their original form and documentation will still be valid for up to three years from the start of their employment. If it has been more than three years since the employee's original hire date, they must fill out a new form.

9. Employers must keep records of I-9s 

Employers must remember that they must keep records of Form I-9s for all employees. That includes any employee who has been terminated, resigned, or otherwise left the company. Employers must retain these documents for a minimum of three years. It's good practice to keep these documents stored in a locked file cabinet in a locked room, separate from other personnel files. 

Outsource Your Compliance Needs 

Completing Form I-9 correctly is critical for employers, as they can face fines and penalties if they make mistakes. A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can help you handle your compliance needs by completing and verifying the forms for you. They will also keep track of all employee documentation so that you always have it on file. It will help to ensure that you comply with all immigration laws and avoid any costly fines. 


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