Every employer in the U.S. is legally required to submit a correctly filled out I-9 form for each new hire. The legal implications of incorrect form completion are usually civil penalties (hefty fines), whereas repeated or serious violations may even lead to criminal penalties, such as jail time. That’s why the importance of the I-9 form cannot be understated.
In this guide, we’ll explain what the I-9 form is and will go over all the sections and responsibilities of both employers and new hires. This will help you understand what is required of you as an employer, what behaviors are strictly prohibited (e.g., employee discrimination), and how to correctly fill out the form to avoid legal repercussions.
What Is an I-9 Form?
An I-9 form is a document issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is used to verify the identity of the employee and their eligibility to be employed as a W-2 worker in the United States. W-2 employees are formally employed by the company (full-time, part-time, or temporary) and receive a W-2 tax to report their income each year.
Both the employer and the W-2 employee must complete their respective sections of the I-9 form. The employer is required to submit the form for every W-2 worker they hire and must retain the documents for at least three years after the hire date or one year after the employee leaves the company (if they leave before the three-year mark).
Failure to comply with these regulations results in civil fines and may even lead to criminal penalties if the employer is found to engage in a pattern of employing workers without proper work authorization.
Who Needs to Fill Out an I-9 Form?
Both the employer and the new hire are required to fill out specific sections of the I-9 form. Here’s a brief explanation of each party’s responsibilities:
- Employer — The employer must complete Section 2 of the I-9 form within three business days of the new hire’s first day of employment. They must also physically examine all documents provided by the new hire and verify their employment eligibility.
- Employee — New hires must complete Section 1 of the form, providing all the necessary personal information and attesting their citizenship or immigration status. This must be done on their first day of employment but not before accepting a job offer.
- Preparer and/or Translator — In case the employee has hired a preparer and/or translator, they are required to complete Supplement A and attest they have assisted in the completion of Section 1 to the best of their ability and that all the information provided is correct.
Parts of an I-9 Form
Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation
Section 1 is reserved for employee information and serves to verify their identity and employment eligibility within the United States. It consists of the following:
- Personal information: Name, gender, address of residency within the U.S., U.S. social security number, email address, and telephone.
- Citizenship and immigration status: Employees must check one of the four available boxes denoting their citizenship status. They can check that they are a citizen, a noncitizen, a lawful permanent resident, or a noncitizen authorized to work until the specified expiration date.
- Employee’s signature and date: Employees must sign the completed form and enter the date of the signing.
Section 2: Employer Review and Verification
Section 2 contains all the relevant information the employer has gathered from physically examining the employee’s submitted documents.
The employer must attest, under penalty of perjury, that they have examined all the provided documentation and that the documentation appears to be genuine.
- Circumstances requiring re-verification: Employers must examine the submitted documentation that verifies the identity and citizenship status of new hires in all cases. They must do so within three days from the employment start date without exception.
- Steps for rehires and updates: For rehires, employers must complete Supplement B (formerly Section 3). The supplement must be completed if the employee requires re-verification, is rehired within three years of the date the original I-9 form was completed, or submits proof of a legal name change.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Failure to complete all required fields
- Use of outdated forms
- Accepting improper documents
- Ignoring deadlines for form completion
Tips for Correctly Filling Out the I-9 Form
Here are a few tips you should keep in mind when filling out the I-9 form to ensure accuracy and avoid hefty penalties for incorrect or late submission.
- Provide accurate personal information
- Choose acceptable documents
- Timely completion and submission
- Train staff on form requirements
- Regularly update I-9 forms
- Establish a system for timely verification
Consequences of Incorrectly Filled I-9 Forms
Failure to submit an I-9 form or incorrect form submission often results in civil penalties (fines) for the employer. In addition to incorrect form submissions, employers may get penalized for discriminating against an employee during the verification process or requiring employees to pay fees to ensure they will get authorized.
The fines range from $272 to $2,701 for the first offense and grow reciprocally for each repeated violation. If the employer is found to have engaged in a pattern of fraudulent or negligent behavior regarding I-9 form submission or has been proven to have committed other severe violations, they may be criminally charged.
Employees may also be criminally charged if they are found to have submitted incorrect or fraudulent information when filling out the I-9 form.
Filling out an I-9 form is a legal requirement, and the fines for late or incorrect submission can be pretty hefty. That’s why you should ensure that each new hire fills out Section 1 as soon as they come in for work on their first day. You must also set aside the time required to thoroughly examine their submitted documentation and ensure their authenticity.
After reading this guide, you should have a firm understanding of what the different sections of the I-9 form are, what responsibilities both you (employer) and the new hires have, and how to go about filling out the form to ensure accuracy.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the I-9 form, here are a few more useful hiring resources to help you build a productive, efficient team:
- What is employee onboarding?
- Must-know HR statistics to improve your team
- The best recruitment software
- Simple steps to implement HR automation in your company
- Best Employer of Record (EOR) services for HR outsourcing