Using Form I-9 to Verify Employment Eligibility

Answers to Questions about Form I-9
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Before you finalize the hiring of new employees, you must complete a list of new hire paperwork. One important document in this list is Form I-9 -- Employment Eligibility Verification. 

I-9 Form Version UPDATE: The I-9 form is periodically updated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Be sure you have the latest form. The USCIS has a required date after which the most recently revised form must be used. 

Currently, the form to use is the one that expires 9/31/2019. This form must be used beginning September 18, 2018. For more information about Form I-9 revision dates, you can sign up to receive email updates from the USCIS. 

What is Form I-9? 

Form I-9, or Employment Eligibility Verification Form, is used to provide documentation that a newly hired employee is authorized to work in the U.S. All new hires must fill out this form and provide appropriate documentation of (1) identity and (2) employment eligibility.

Where do I get Form I-9? 

Form I-9 is provided by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) for employees and employers to use to verify employment eligibility. You can get this form online in PDF format; instructions are included. You can also go to the USCIS website to get a copy of the form and see the instructions.

You can also get a Spanish version of the I-9 form, but it can only be used in Puerto Rico. The English version of the form must be used in all other U.S. states and territories.

How do I know I have the most up-to-date version of Form I-9?

Look at the expiration date in the top right-hand corner. The current version of Form I-9 has an expiration date of 3/31/2016. This version of the form must be used by employers to verify employment after May 7, 2013. The form is also available in Spanish. 

Am I required to use Form I-9 for all new employees? 

Yes, you must have a copy of Form I-9 on file for every employee in your company. 

Where Do I File Form I-9?

Don't file form I-9 with USCIS. Make sure you have a completed form (both the employer and employee sections) for each employee and keep the forms where you can get them in case of an audit or inspection.

Is a Form I-9 needed for independent contractors I hire?

Employers do not need to use an I-9 to verify work eligibility of independent contractors, since these workers are not employees. Just make sure that anyone working for you is properly classified (employee vs. independent contractor)

Is a Form I-9 necessary for me if I'm self-employed?

No, because a self-employed person is a business owner, not an employee. One exception: Owners of a corporation work as employees. In this case, it might be prudent to complete Form I-9 and have it on file for each owner/employee.

When must I have an employee complete Form I-9? 

USCIS specifies specific timing for when you must have a new employee complete this form. You must have the new employee complete Section 1 of Form I-9 no later than the first day of work, but you may not require the person to complete this section before accepting a job with your company.

What if an employee fails to produce verification documents?

You have the right to refuse to hire or to fire a newly hired employee who fails to produce the required employment verification documents within business days of hire.

What if I'm not sure about the documents?

You must look at the documents provided by each employee and you must accept them if they appear to be genuine. You may ask the Department of Homeland Security about the documents, but they will not verify specific documents unless submitted through the E-Verify system.

Can I be charged with a violation if there is a problem with the I-9 or the documents?

You cannot be charged with a violation if the I-9 is properly filled out and is complete and you have kept the form, even if the employee is determined later not to be authorized to work in the U.S. This is called a "good faith" defense.

Is a new I-9 required for each employee if a company is sold?

If one company acquires another, there are two possible courses of action with regard to Form I-9 and employment eligibility verification: (a) the new owner can ask for a new I-9 for ALL employee or, (b) the employees can be treated as continuing employees, so no new verification is needed. Whatever course of action is taken, all employees must be treated the same.

Where can I get more information about Form I-9?

This article by the USCIS gives more details about Form I-9, including the most recent forms.

Read more: Step-by-step instructions for completing Form I-9 to verify new employee eligibility.

The information in these answers is intended to be brief and general and it does not include all commonly asked questions. USCIS policies and forms may change, For more details and more questions, see this Department of Homeland Security (DHS) publication Handbook for Employers.