Completing an I-9: 17 Tips to Do It Correctly
If you’re a hiring manager, you’ve had experience with Employee Eligibility Verification Form I-9, required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to establish that a worker is eligible to accept employment in the U.S. Every employee must complete Section 1 of the form when he or she begins employment and every employer must complete Section 2 within three days of when the employee begins. But it’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure the form is completed accurately and on time. And it’s important. With so much attention being paid to immigration and homeland security, the I-9 is coming under increased scrutiny. Fortunately, like most forms, completing the I-9 is neither rocket science nor brain surgery, but there are a few items in fine print you may miss. Here are some tips to make sure you get it done right:
- You don’t have to complete the I-9 for unpaid workers or for contractors. BUT, you could still find yourself liable if you contract work to a company that you know employs unauthorized workers. Make sure your contractors file I-9s.
- Do not fill out an I-9 until the employee is hired.
- Use blue or black ink. Do not use different colors of ink in the same section. Do not use pencil.
- Do not use whiteout. Do not cross out or scratch out mistakes. If a mistake occurs during completion of the form, start over with a new form.
- Do not keep photocopies of documents unless otherwise required by law (for example, in Colorado) or by E-verify (for example, permanent resident card).
- If a new form must be done after the employee has worked at the company, the old I-9 should be stapled to the new one and kept together.
- Section 1 of the form should be filled out by the employee on or before the first day of work.
- The employee should complete Section 1. A translator/preparer can help, if necessary. The employee must read, sign and date the form.
- Do not ask for any documents to substantiate the information provided by the employee in Section 1.
- Do not have more than one person’s handwriting in the same section (unless the person filling out Section 2 is also the preparer/translator).
- Make sure the employee does not sign or date the preparer/translator section.
- The same person who is the employee representative must both review the original document and fill out and sign Section 2.
- Do not accept photocopies of the documents the employee needs to produce to enable you to complete Section 2. Only original documents are acceptable. If the employee cannot product the documents, he is not eligible to work at the company.
- If the employee does not have a SS card, you can accept a document from the SSA indicating that person has applied for a replacement.
- Do not accept social security numbers that start with the number 9. They are generally not true social security numbers.
- Section 3 of the I-9 can be used for reverification when an employee’s work authorization has expired, when her name changes, or when an employee is rehired.
- If Section 3 is being completed because of an expired work authorization, it should be done when the work authorization nears expiration AND when the employee is already eligible to work under a different basis or new work authorization. You should develop a system to remind employees four or five months before authorization expires, to allow enough time for the employee to address the situation.