The Official Governent I9 Form: Employment Eligibility Verification

Construction LaborerIf you hire employees then you must have each one complete the I9 Form, called Employment Eligibility Verification.  Now, as an employer you’re probably very much used to having your new employees fill out a big stack of paperwork.  There’s the W4 of course, and the W9. However, this is not a tax form.  The form is published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), not the IRS.

The I-9 Form is used to verify proper work status…can this person work legally in the United States?  You are verifying that you have seen a Green Card, Passport, US Driver’s License, Social Security Card, and/or other forms of official ID that prove identity and employment eligibility.

As the employer, you are completely responsible for having your new employees fill out the I-9, making sure it’s completely filled out (not partially), and keeping it on file. You  MUST make sure that you are compliant because you can be fined if you fail to do so.  The agency that manages the I-9 form falls under the guise of Homeland Security so you know you’re dealing with serious stuff here.  They can bust in any time and demand to see your stack of I-9 Forms!  And if you don’t have them well it’s going to cost you money, to begin with.  Then, if any of your workers are found to be ineligible for work in the US, you’re also risking your whole business.  Don’t mess with Homeland Security, it will really put a damper on your business.

The I9 Form: Not Your Typical New Hire Form

OK this part is different from tax forms your employees fill out the first day of work.  Yes, by they way the I9-Form must be filled out on the employee’s first day of work.

Secondly, the employee fills out part of the I9 and the employer fills out part of it.  It’s a joint effort so either you as the employee or someone you designate must fill out part.  If you are going to delegate this work out to someone else, let’s say in Human Resources, make sure it’s someone you trust.  Remember, this is an official document and you or your designee will be verifying documents the new hire brings to you.  It’s a responsibility.

Third, it’s not a form you submit.  Unlike the tax forms you’re used to having your employees fill out, after which you submit them to the IRS, nobody is collecting the I-9 Form from you.  You have to be the one to keep these on record in case the USCIS decides to have a peek at your files.

How to Fill Out the I-9 Form

  1. Page One.  That’s filled out by the employee.  It’s the usual basic stuff like name, address, Social Security Number, etc.  Then the employee must check a box designating which type of eligible worker he or she is: a US citizen, a national, a resident alien, or an alien with a work expiration date.  The USCIS or Alien Registration number must be written down, too.
  2. Page Two.  That’s your part: here, you really need to get out the IJ9-Form Instructions.  You have to choose from a list of id documents to verify the new hire’s ID and work status.  Print out the I9-Form and all its instructions so you have them on hand for this part.  They can be located online and printed out anytime on the  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website here.

 What Documents You Need for the I9-Form

The one document that says it all is the US passport.  For non-citizens, an Permanent Resident Card will do.  An Alien Registration Receipt Card will also suffice.

If your new hire doesn’t have these, then a US Driver’s License + Social Security Card will do.  If there is no Social Security Card, a Birth Certificate will do the job.  For other types of ID and the combinations that are allowed, see the instructions by clicking the link above.

The most common I9-Form ID validation is the Driver’s License + SS Card combo.  When you are hiring someone not born in the US, the list of acceptable documents becomes even more important because there are several ways to document ID and work status besides these common ways I’ve listed above.

Small business teamAnother common ID is the foreign passport with an I-551 stamp in it.  Ask for the passport and leaf through the pages and look for the I-551 stamp, which looks like the image you see to the left.

The I-551 stamp can also be printed on a visa, or even a Form I-94 if there is no passport present.  There will be an expiration date on the stamp, so make sure it’s still valid.  If there is no expiration date, then it’s valid until one year after the stamp was issued.

Just a Few More Things About the I-9 Form That You Should Know

Remember: filling out and saving the I-9 Forms for all your employees is the law.  The only exception is an employee you hired before November 6, 1986.  Not too many people out there have been working for the same employer for almost thirty years.

Also, you can’t discriminate based on what type of I9 documentation your new hire brings you.  In other words, you’re not allowed to discriminate based on national origin or citizenship status.

One lat thing, you can’t legally limit the types of ID you’ll accept when filling out the I9-Form.  The employee has the right to fulfill the needs of the ID and work status documentation any way he or she can, based on the List of Acceptable Documents outlined on the I9-Form instructions.