What is an I9 Form? Information for Employers

Completing Form !-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification

Using I-9 to Verify Employee Work Eligibility
••• Using I-9 to Verify Employee Work Eligibility. PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson/Getty Images

Employers who hire workers have a number of laws to adhere to, including immigration laws. One law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986), requires employers to verify the work eligibility of all employee at hire. The employee swears to the validity of the information by providing documents, and the employer confirms by reviewing the employee's documents. Employers are required to keep the form in case of inspection.

All new hires must fill out this form, including U.S. citizens. Each new hire must provide appropriate documentation of (1) identity and (2) employment eligibility.

Form I-9 is also the basis for further verification by the employer, using the E-Verify system.

How the I-9 Form Process Works

The new employee attests that he/she is legally eligible to work in the U.S. and that the documents acceptable to verify employment eligibility re valid. You must examine the documents and attest to your belief that they are valid. The person must provide either (1)a document establishing both identity and eligibility, like a passport or permanent resident ("green") card, or (2) one document establishing identity (a driver's license, for example) and another establishing employment eligibility (a Social Security card).

All of the information is explained in the I-9 document.

How to Complete Form I-9

Have copies of Form I-9 on hand before you begin hiring your first employee. Make sure you have the most recent version of Form I-9. The current form, with expiration date 3/31/2016, must be used by employers to verify employment after May 7, 2013.

Copies of Form I-9 (PDF format) are available from the U. S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. This form can be filled in online, then printed out for signatures.

Form I-9 must be completed at the time of hire, and you (the employer) must keep all Form I-9's for all employees. If the form is filled out completely and you have accepted documents presented by the employee, you may fire the employee if you find out that the employee misrepresented his or her work eligibility status or if the forms presented by the employee are found not to be valid.

Completing Section 1 - Employee Information and Attestation

Section 1 is completed by the employee. The employee must include name, maiden name, address, and date of birth. The employee should include Social Security Number, but this number is optional unless your company is using the E-Verify system.

The employee then attests to his or her status - one of the following:

  • Citizen of the United States
  • Non-citizen national of the United States
  • Lawful permanent resident (including Alien #)
  • Alien authorized to work (including Alien # or Admission #) until (include the expiration date, if applicable)

Someone may assist the employee in completing Section 1 of Form I-9. The Preparer and/or Translator Certification section should be completed by the helper. Be sure to print the name and address of the helper.

Completing Section 2: Employer Review and Verification

Section 2 is completed by the employer. You must review the documents necessary to verify both (a) identity and (b) work eligibility of the employee. Note that documents in List A, such as a U.S. passport, verify BOTH identity and work eligibility. Documents in List B verify identity and documents in List C verify work eligibility. You must have one document from EACH of List B and List C if you don't have a document from List A.

Acceptable Documents

A list of acceptable documents is included on the I-9 form. You can find more information about acceptable documents, including examples of documents, in the USCIS ​Handbook for Employers.

A note about Social Security cards: You cannot accept a laminated Social Security card or a Social Security card which states "not valid for employment purposes." Printouts from the Social Security Administration showing social security information for an employee are not acceptable replacements for a Social Security Card.

Documents presented to you for verification must match the eligibility status attested to by the employee. If the documents presented to you are not consistent with the status attested to by the employee, you cannot accept them. For example, if an employee attests that he or she is a U.S. citizen, but shows you a "green card," you cannot accept the document.

Expiration Dates of Documents

Some documents, like a passport or work authorization, have expiration dates. Documents which have expired are not acceptable for verification. If a document expires in the future, you must accept it, but make a note of the expiration date in your employee record keeping system. If a document expires and the employee does not provide a new document showing a future expiration date, that employee is no longer eligible to work in the U.S. If your company is inspected, you may be subject to fines and penalties for continuing to employ this individual.

Original documents only

All documents presented must be originals. Photocopies are not acceptable. If you have a question about whether a document is a copy, look for a stamp or seal from a U.S. government agency or from a state, county, or municipal government entity.

If a document has a different name from the name given by the employee on the I-9, ask questions. Slight spelling variations of names are acceptable as long as the document appears to be genuine and it relates to the person.

After you review the documents and make a reasonable determination that they are both (a) genuine (not copies or otherwise questionable) and (b) relate to the employee named, you must attest under penalty of perjury that, to the best of your knowledge, the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. Include the date the employee began working for your company. Sign, date, print your name and title and include the address of the company.

Section 3 Updating and Re-verification

Section 3 is used to update information on documents which have expired and allows for a new document expiration date to be added to the form.

Keeping Copies of Documents

If your company is using the E-Verify system, keep photocopies of all documents. If you are not using E-Verify, you don't need to keep copies of documents. If you do keep copies, do this for ALL employees.

Where to Get I-9 Forms

You can download the forms from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service website. You can also email your request to I-9Central@dhs.gov.  

Anti-discrimination Notice in Form I-9

The I-9 Form contains this anti-discrimination notice:

It is illegal to discriminate against work-authorized individuals. Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) they will accept from an employee. The refusal to hire an individual because the documents have a future expiration date may also constitute illegal discrimination.