As an employer, it’s more important than ever that you can guarantee all your employees are authorized to work in the US. Your most important security measure is the federal I-9 form. But things have changed in the past year. A new version of Form I-9 was released, and the procedures for verifying and certifying employees’ employment eligibility were changed significantly.
It’s vital that you get the 2024 Form I-9 right – or face fines and penalties. Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know to ensure a legal and compliant workforce — without wasting hours on tedious paperwork.
Form I-9: The Basics
What is an I-9 Form used for?
Form I-9, or the Employment Eligibility Verification form, is the procedure for confirming the identity of new employees and ensuring they are legally allowed to work in the United States.
With Form I-9, your employees provide documentation to demonstrate their identity and work eligibility, and you as their employer confirm and validate that eligibility.
How Form I-9 works
In Section 1 of Form I-9, the employee provides their personal details and declares their legal entitlement to work in the US. In Section 2, the employer or authorized representative inspects the employee’s supporting documents to confirm that the documents provided belong to the employee and appear genuine.
Are I-9 forms required?
If you hire employees to work in the US, you must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each of them. However, you don’t have to complete an I-9 for contractors, agency temps, or employees not working on US soil.
You should always use the most current I-9 form. New versions of Form I-9 aren’t released on a predictable schedule – the 2024 I-9 form was released months after the previous version expired. Take care and check the form’s issue date to ensure you are using the correct version.
Form I-9: Employment Eligibility Verification
The purpose of Employment Eligibility Verification is to ensure that employers are in compliance with federal immigration laws and to prevent illegal employment. In this way, Form I-9 seeks to guarantee fair employment practices for everyone legally allowed to work.
Form I-9 carries steep penalties for employers who fail to comply with document requirements, with fines ranging up to the thousands per form. Read on for the step-by-step guide to ensure that your form I-9s are in compliance.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Completing Form I-9
There are five parts to Form I-9:
- Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation
- Section 2: Employer Review and Verification
- Lists of Acceptable Documents
- Supplement A: Preparer and/or Translator Certification for Section 1
- Supplement B: Reverification and Rehire (formerly Section 3)
You can download a PDF of the latest version of the I-9 form here.
Let’s look at the purpose of each part, how and when to complete them, and who is responsible for each section.
1. Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation
Who completes Section 1?
Every new employee must complete Section 1 of Form I-9. They can also work with a preparer and/or translator, but any preparer or translator must then complete Supplement A (more on that later!).
When should Section 1 be completed?
Every new employee must complete and sign this section by the first day of their employment.
What details do employees need to provide?
Some information is required, including the employee’s:
- current legal name
- any previous or other legal last names, (e.g. their maiden name)
- current address including zip code
- date of birth (in mm/dd/yyyy format)
- Social Security number (if the employer is enrolled in E-Verify)
Other information is optional, including:
- phone number
- email address
- Social Security number (if the employer is not enrolled in E-Verify)
The employee must also specify their residency and employment status. There are four options:
- A citizen of the United States.
- A non-citizen national of the United States
- A lawful permanent resident, with an Alien Registration Number (A-Number) or USCIS Number.
- A noncitizen authorized to work, such as an asylee or refugee. They must provide the date their employment authorization expires.
The employee must then sign and date the form.
2. Section 2: Employer Review and Verification
Who completes Section 2?
You, as the employer — or your authorized representative — must fill out I-9 Section 2. (We’ll discuss authorized representatives later on.)
When should Section 2 be completed?
You must complete Section 2 within three business days of the employee beginning paid work. Even if you hire someone for less than three business days, you still need to complete Form I-9 and Section 2.
What is the procedure for Section 2?
In Section 2, you verify the new employee’s supporting documentation that proves their:
- eligibility to work in the US
To do this, you need to examine the original, acceptable, and unexpired documentation (or an acceptable receipt for pending documentation) to ensure it is genuine, valid and relates to the employee.
You then complete Section 2 of Form I-9, including the document title, issuing authority, document number, and any expiration date. You then sign and date Section 2 to certify that the documents appear genuine, and that the employee is authorized to work.
Previously, it was necessary to review this documentation in person, with the employee present. Recently, a new “alternative procedure” using E-Verify allows you to verify the employee’s documents remotely.
(See Form I-9: E-Verify and Alternative Procedures for more details.)
3. List of Acceptable Documents
Each employee has to provide valid documentation that establishes both their identity and their authorization to work in the US. The Department of Homeland Security has produced three lists of acceptable documentation:
- List A documents show both identity and employment authorization.
- List B documents show identity only.
- List C documents show employment authorization only.
To fulfill the requirements of Form I-9, employees can choose either:
- 1 document selected from List A; or
- 1 selection from List B together with 1 selection from List C.
So, for example, an employee could provide a valid US passport (from List A) or a US driver’s license together with their birth certificate.
List A: Documents that establish both identity and employment authorization
If your employees can present a valid List A document, that is sufficient. You should not ask them to provide List B or List C documents. List A documents include:
- U.S. passport or passport card
- Foreign passport accompanied by a Form I-94, Form I-94A, or containing a temporary Form I-551 or stamp.
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (“Green Cards.”)
- Employment Authorization Document Card
List B: Documents that establish identity only
If your employee chooses to present a List B document, they must also present a document from List C. List B documents include:
- US or Canadian driver’s license
- Government-issued ID card or school ID card with a photograph
- Voter registration card
- US military card or draft record
If your business participates in E-Verify, the List B document must contain a photograph.
List C: Documents that establish employment authorization only
If your employees choose to present a List C document, they must also provide a document from List B. List C documents include:
- An unrestricted US Social Security card
- Original or certified copies of birth certificates
- US Citizen ID Card or Resident Citizen ID Card
- An employment authorization document issued by the DHS such as refugee or asylee records, certificates of US citizenship or naturalization or an unexpired Reentry Permit
4. Supplement A
A translator, or anyone else who helps an employee to complete Section 1, should fill out a separate certification block on Supplement A, providing their name and address, their signature, and the date.
It’s important to note that even if a preparer or translator helped them, the employee still must sign and date Section 1.
5. Supplement B
Supplement B of Form I-9 allows you to modify or update certain employee details. You should complete Supplement B if your employee has:
- legally changed their name
- been rehired within three years of completing their original I-9 or
- renewed an expired employment authorization or document
For example, if your employee’s employment authorization expires, you need to reverify that they are still authorized to work (note: reverification does not apply to U.S. citizens). Check the new documents for authenticity, record the document title, document number and expiration date. Then, sign and date Supplement B.
If you are rehiring an employee within three years, check their original Form I-9 and documentation to ensure they are still authorized to work, complete the reverification for any expired documents, enter the date of the rehire. Then sign and date Supplement B.
To avoid inadvertent lapses, keep an eye on expiration dates and give employees plenty of notice. WorkBright’s Smart I-9 can help here, with automated reminders and a handy I-9 tracker.
Find out everything you need to know about I-9 reverification here.
How to Check Document Authenticity
Before completing Section 2 of Form I-9, you, or your authorized representative, must carefully examine the employee’s documents. You should:
- check for expiration dates
- check that they seem authentic (look for any inconsistencies or signs of tampering)
- compare the document data with the information the employee has provided in Section 1
- ensure that any photo is a reasonable likeness to the employee
If you have any uncertainty about the document, do not certify it.
What are the Consequences of Form I-9 Non-Compliance?
If an ICE audit or raid discovers non-compliance with regard to I-9 employment forms, it can be seriously expensive — even if it’s an honest mistake or oversight. I-9 penalties can come to thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars.
There are three different levels of errors in completing an I-9, with different potential penalties:
- If you make a trivial mistake, such as a missing address or date, you have 10 days from the submission of the I-9 to correct it.
- For paper forms, employees should draw a line through the error, add the correct information, and initial and date the correction. Do not use correction fluid.
- For electronic I-9 forms, an audit trail should reflect any corrections and additions.
- If you make a more significant technical mistake, like a missing signature or filing after the deadline, you could face fines of up to $2,507 per submission.
- Deliberate errors, such as knowingly hiring an employee who is not eligible to work in the US, can cost you anywhere between $590 and $25,076.
The bottom line is mistakes should be avoided at all costs, or it can cost you big!
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Filling Out Form I-9
Mistakes are easily made — but they are also easily avoidable. Here are some of the most common:
Data entry errors
All data — legal names and addresses, social security numbers, signatures, and so on — need to be present and correct. Beware of common data entry mistakes such as:
- Omitting personal details like names, address, date of birth.
- Omitting key dates like the employee’s start date or document expiration dates
- Omitting A-number/USCIS number, Form I-94 admission numbers
- Checking the wrong box to indicate status, or checking multiple boxes.
- Not entering the details of List A, B and C documents on the Form I-9
- The preparer and/or translator not completing Supplement A correctly.
- Leaving out corrected details if completing Supplement B
- Failing to sign or date the certification.
You can avoid errors by making double-checks a standard part of your I-9 procedures. Better still, digital verification software like WorkBright’s Smart I-9 can guide employees through Form I-9 Section 1 and flag any potential errors.
Poor documentation storage
If you’re not able to produce valid I-9 documentation for your employees when ICE requests it, you could find yourself landed with a serious penalty.
Make sure you retain ID and eligibility copies securely for all your employees — after verifying that they are legitimate. Conduct periodic internal I-9 audits to ensure everything is up to spec in case of a visit from ICE.
WorkBright’s secure Smart I-9 lets you scan and upload work authorization documents to be stored with bank-grade security and an easily traceable audit trail.
Form I-9: Recent Changes and Updates
In the past, employees had to do I-9 verification on paper and in person. The Covid-19 pandemic changed all that, and in March 2020, a temporary remote I-9 option was put in place to allow new hires to verify their documents virtually.
In July 2023, the DHS announced big changes to the Form I-9 process. Firstly, any employees hired since March 2020 had to have their virtually-verified documents reinspected by August 30, 2023. While this was an administrative pain for businesses and employees, the other changes will reduce a lot of I-9 paperwork.
- A new version of Form I-9 was released, which was simplified and streamlined to a one-page form.
- A new remote document verification option, dubbed ““alternative procedure” was permanently introduced.
- Employers who are registered and in good standing with E-Verify can make use of alternative procedure to verify documents remotely.
Read more about how to verify I-9 remotely and find the I-9 form download here.
Form I-9: What Are Your Responsibilities as the Employer?
It’s not just the employee’s responsibility to complete Form I-9 or to provide the right information and documentation. As an employer, it’s vital that you dot your i’s and cross your t’s when it comes to your legal obligations. It is your responsibility to:
Verify employment eligibility
It is not enough to assume that the employee has given you valid information and documentation. You have a duty to check this.
Not only do you have to complete Section 2 that attests that the employee’s documentation reasonably appears to be genuine and related to the employee, but you also are responsible for making sure they have completed Section 1 fully and properly.
Support the employee to complete Form I-9
Make the I-9 procedure part of your onboarding process. Familiarize your employees with the I-9, how to complete Section 1, and the importance of providing complete and accurate information.
Make sure every employee completing Form I-9 has access to the lists of acceptable documentation and knows what combination of documents they need to provide.
Use WorkBright to help them utilize an authorized representative to verify their documentation.
Retain and store Form I-9 properly
You don’t have to submit the Form I-9 to the government, but you do need to be able to show it if and when requested.
You must hold on to the completed Form I-9 for each employee for at least three years. If an employee stays with the company for more than three years, you must keep their I-9 for at least one year after they leave.
Form I-9: What are the Employee’s Responsibilities?
Completing Section 1 accurately and on time
It is the employee’s responsibility to truthfully and fully complete Section 1 of Form I-9 by the first day of their employment. They need to include personal information such as name, address, date of birth, and attest to their employment authorization.
Providing acceptable documents for verification
Your new hires are responsible for providing original, unexpired copies of their verification documents. The documents they provide must match the information they’ve provided in Section 1.
They should be familiar with what documents or combinations of documents from Lists A, B and C they need to provide. They also need to submit these in time, so that you can complete Form I-9 and verify the documents within 3 business days of their start date.
Understanding the implications of false information
Employees must be clear that providing false information or invalid documentation may be illegal and could expose them and the employer to penalties. They have a responsibility to take the I-9 process seriously.
Updating Form I-9 or reverifying documents when necessary
Employees need to notify their employer of any changes to their employment eligibility, any legal name changes, or if any of their documentation is expiring and needs to be reverified.
Form I-9: Citizenship, Immigration and Non-Discrimination
One of the key aspects of completing Form I-9 is avoiding discrimination against employees. Form I-9 sets out and authenticates your employee’s citizenship or immigration status.
However, as an employer, you cannot demand different documentation or use the I-9 process as a screening check of citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.
All your employees have the choice about which acceptable documentation to present for Form I-9. You cannot ask them to provide specific documentation or additional documentation.
Indeed, requesting specific documents based on citizenship, immigration status, or national origin, may be illegal. Using any of those details in recruitment or dismissal processes may also be against the law.
Form I-9: Security and DHS
To ensure the security and integrity of Form I-9, companies need to examine and verify the authenticity of the documents presented by employees and retain Form I-9 for each employee for the required period.
Obviously, when you are handling employee data, it’s vital to protect against fraud and identity theft. Checking and verifying employee information thoroughly, storing data securely and conducting regular internal audits are crucial practices.
Using the E-Verify system can further enhance the accuracy and security of employment eligibility verification.
Form I-9: E-Verify and Alternative Procedures
What is E-Verify?
E-Verify is a web-based system that allows you to check your new hires’ employment eligibility. It is run by the DHS and the Social Security Administration (SSA), and electronically checks their I-9 information against federal and state data.
Used correctly, E-Verify gives you peace of mind about I-9 compliance, helping your business avoid costly violations.
For most employers, E-Verify is optional, although it is required in certain states or if you are a state contractor or funded by the state. If you choose to use E-Verify — or if you’re required to use it — you must use E-Verify for all new hires, both U.S. citizens and noncitizens.
We’ve published a full rundown of everything you need to know about getting started with E-Verify, which gives you further details about whether your company should sign up.
What is the Alternative Procedure?
Alternative procedure is a virtual review option for employers using E-Verify that became available on August 1st, 2023. It is a separate process from the COVID-era virtual review which ended July 31st, 2023. This “alternative procedure” offers more flexibility and convenience for remote and hybrid employees, but comes with distinct requirements for employers who wish to participate.
Here’s how it works:
- Once the new employee has completed I-9 Section 1, they securely submit an electronic copy of their documents to the employer.
- The employee has a virtual meeting with an authorized representative of their employer. The representative reviews the employee’s identity and work authorization documents and attests they appear genuine and related to the employee.
- The representative signs Section 2 of the employee’s Form I-9 and checks the “Alternative Procedure” box.
- The employer validates the employee information by submitting and closing an E-Verify case. The employer securely stores and retains the documents securely in the event of an audit.
To qualify to use the alternative procedure,
- You must use E-Verify, and be in good standing
- Users must undergo E-Verify training
- E-Verify must be used for all new hires, unless physical examination is available for on-site employees
- You must be able to securely retain and present clear and legible copies of all documents
Sick of Spending Hours on Form I-9s? WorkBright Has You Covered
If you employ US-based staff, Form I-9 is a non-negotiable. It’s imperative that you complete it fully, accurately and consistently for every one of your new hires, and that you keep it up-to-date and secure.
That sounds like a lot of responsibility, and a lot of administration — and in the past, it really was. However, with the new changes to the I-9, and with user-friendly, intuitive digital solutions like WorkBright’s Smart I-9, it doesn’t have to be.
“I used to spend hours a week scanning and managing documents for the onboarding of a new cohort,” says Amanda Sontag, HRBP of admin chat service Ruby. “Now that we use WorkBright, employees fill out the I-9, I review to make sure they put things in there correctly, I hit “Accept” and I’m done. It’s beautiful and I love it.”
The WorkBright app guides new employees effortlessly through the I-9 form, including selecting a third party to complete Section 2. WorkBright ensures everything is compliant, and allows companies to provide all the documents with a full audit trail with a simple click.
When it comes to verifying your new employee’s employment eligibility, you can’t afford to cut corners with your I-9 process. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it a quick and easy process. WorkBright offers a solution that is intuitive, compliant, and capable of high-volume hiring, so that companies like Ruby can manage remote hiring and onboarding with ease.
To find out how WorkBright can make your I-9 procedures lightning-fast, error-free, and 100% compliant, book a demo.