All employers must complete and retain Forms I-9 for every employee they hire on or after November 6, 1986. Failure to do so can be costly (nearly $13 million in fines were levied by the federal government in 2012) and highly disruptive to business operations if a company is audited.
To help ensure you are correctly following the procedures regarding Form I-9 compliance, keep these tips in mind:
Never discriminate. Employers must treat employees in a non-discriminatory manner when recruiting, hiring, firing, and verifying their identity and authorization to work in the United States.
Follow the three-day rule. Section 2 of Form I-9, “Employer Review and Verification,” must be filled out by the employer within three days of the employee’s first day working for pay. During this time, the new employee must submit the appropriate documents (see below), which are in turn examined by the employer and determined to be “reasonably genuine.” This rule applies to all new employees, whether they’re on-site or working remotely.
Review appropriate documents. A single document may be sufficient to prove identity and employment eligibility, such as a U.S. passport or permanent resident card, or an employee may need to present two documents, such as an original Social Security card (not a copy) and a valid driver’s license. It is up to the new employee to choose which document(s) to provide — the Form I-9 instructions list which documents are acceptable — but the employer is responsible for verifying that what the employee provides appears genuine.
Keep completed forms on file. Employers are responsible for ensuring that both the employee section and employer section of the form have been completely filled out. Regardless of their status (full-time, part-time, etc.), a completed Form I-9 must be kept on file for each active employee and certain former employees. Forms I-9 must be maintained for at least three years or one year after an employee leaves his or her job, whichever is longer. The forms must also be available for inspection by representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice, or other authorized official bodies.
Use online services to verify documents. A variety of online services are available to assist in verifying that information new employees provide for the Form I-9 corresponds with government records. Among the most widely used are E-Verify, the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS), and the Records and Information from DMVs for E-Verify (RIDE) program. Some states may require the use of such online services for verification.
Establish a policy for Form I-9 compliance. To make sure you have a consistent procedure for maintaining compliance with this federal requirement, it may be wise to put together a policy in writing for the completion and retention of all Forms I-9. This may help to reduce the risk of non-compliance in the event of a government audit and it can speed up the necessary step-by-step process each new employee must go through upon beginning work.
Conduct a self-audit. Rather than automatically assuming you fulfill all Form I-9 requirements, take time to conduct a self-audit to ensure you have completed Forms I-9 for all applicable current and former employees and to check for errors on the forms. It’s a good preventative measure to take, but may also weigh in your favor with government authorities if and when they decide to investigate your procedures on their own.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services expects employers to use the most current Form I-9. The most recent version can be found at http://www.uscis.gov.