Navigating Form I-9 acceptable documents: Enhance verification efficiency

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In the days leading up to welcoming a new hire cohort into your company, it’s full steam ahead: the offers are signed, the trainings are scheduled, and now, you just have to ensure the onboarding paperwork is on track. What could slow you down?

For many HR teams, completing Form I-9 and acceptable document verification can bring the onboarding process to a crawl. From accurate I-9 completion to ensuring compliance, time-consuming tasks can stack up quickly. Read on for an overview of Form I 9 acceptable documents and common issues, verification options, and tips for selecting the best verification method for your company.

Employee vs. employer responsibility and common issues

First, it’s important to understand the employer vs. employer responsibility in the Form I-9 process and how that relates to common issues with acceptable documents.

Employee responsibility

The I-9 form begins with the employee. Upon hiring, employees must complete Section 1 of the form no later than their first day, providing information such as their name, address, and Social Security number. Additionally, they must attest to their employment eligibility by selecting one of the provided options: U.S. citizen, noncitizen national, lawful permanent resident, or alien authorized to work. To support their selection, employees must present I-9 acceptable documents to the employer.

Employer responsibility

Next, within three business days of an employee’s start date, employers must complete Section 2 of the form. This involves examining the documents provided by the employee and ensuring they appear genuine and match the information the employee provided. Employers must also record certain document details, such as the issuing authority and expiration date.

Common issues with document verification

Several factors can slow down the acceptable document verification process. First, adhering to the required timelines becomes particularly challenging when verifying documents for large-scale hiring or remote work situations. This is especially true due to the wide variety of documents that are accepted and the nuances of each. Second, addressing employee documentation issues—such as mismatched, damaged, or expired documents—needs careful handling to resolve effectively and efficiently. Last but not least, ensuring that the Form I-9 process meets the latest compliance standards is always top of mind, requiring high attention to detail and documentation throughout the verification process.

Stay up to date with the latest I-9 requirements, learn more here

The most common acceptable documents for Form I-9

To complete Form I-9, employees can present documents from three lists: List A, List B, and List C. Each list serves a distinct purpose in verifying identity and employment authorization.

List A: documents that establish both identity and employment authorization

  • Most common List A documents: U.S. passport or passport card, foreign passport, employment authorization document that has a photo.
  • Other acceptable List A documents: Permanent resident card or alien registration receipt card, foreign passport with Form I-94A with arrival-departure record and containing an endorsement to work, a passport from the Federated States of Micronesia or the Republic of the Marshall Islands with Form I-94 or I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission.

List B: documents that establish identity only

  • Most common List B documents: A driver’s license, a school ID card, a voter’s registration card, a U.S. military card, or a draft record.
  • Other acceptable List B documents: ID Card Issued by Federal, State, or Local Government Agencies or Entities, Military Dependent’s ID Card7, U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document Car, Native American Tribal Document.
    • For individuals under age 18: School record or report card, clinic, doctor, or hospital record, day-care or nursery school record.

 List C: documents that establish employment authorization only

  • Most common List C documents: Social Security card, birth certificate, or certificate of report of birth.
  • Other acceptable List C documents: Certificate of birth abroad, Native American tribal document, U.S. Citizen ID card, identification card for the use of a resident citizen in the U.S., and employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

For a comprehensive list and more details, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services page on Form I-9 acceptable documents

Employer options for document verification

Employers have multiple options for verifying the identity and employment eligibility of new hires.

Traditional (in-person)

In-person verification is the traditional method where employees present their documents to the employer directly. This method allows employers to inspect the documents to verify the appearance of authenticity through a physical inspection.

Alternative procedure

Employers can use the alternative procedure approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While the alternative procedure is remote, the employer and employee must schedule a video call with an authorized representative to verify the authenticity of the presented documents. This can be an especially cumbersome process for large companies who onboard at scale. Read our in-depth article about the pros and cons of the alternative procedure here.

100% Remote

In the digital age, many HR teams are opting for entirely remote processes to complete Form I-9. This enables employers to complete, verify, and store I-9 forms entirely online, enhancing efficiency, reducing manual errors, and ensuring compliance even with a remote or hybrid workforce. Plus, employees have the option to complete the process on their mobile devices, offering added convenience.

What’s the right verification method for your organization?

Pinpointing the bottlenecks in your current Form I-9 process and identifying the best solution can be tricky. As a starting point, we recommend looking into the following metrics:

  • Hiring volume
  • Type of employees hired (part-time or full-time)
  • Distribution of employees (in-person, hybrid, or remote)
  • Time spent on Form I-9 and/or the onboarding process as a whole
  • Human resource team capacity

These items will give you valuable data points to inform which verification method you choose as part of your onboarding strategy.

You may also consider doing an internal audit to gather feedback from your human resources staff or surveying employees who have been onboarded in the past six months to collect input about their onboarding software experience.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Smaller companies with infrequent hires may find paper-based processes or the alternative procedure to be manageable and cost-effective. A larger company may benefit from a 100% remote process, especially if they hire remote or hybrid employees regularly. This could greatly increase the speed at which they can onboard new hires. Sharyn Rinaldi Dingertopadre, Vice President of Operations and Client Success at AllWork shared that making the switch to a remote I-9 process increased their hiring capacity by 350% and made the verification process significantly faster:

 “We were spending a tremendous amount of time trying to identify and verify IDs. Sometimes, employees would submit expired documents or the wrong form of ID. We had to manually organize the files, check them, name them, group them, and upload them.” -Sharyn Rinaldi Dingertopadre, VP of Operations and Client Success at AllWork

Download a comprehensive guide to Form I-9

Whether you are onboarding one hundred employees or 10,000, Form I-9 and acceptable document verification is an essential part of the process—not to mention, it’s no small feat. Choosing the appropriate verification method ensures a seamless onboarding experience and compliance for both employees and your company. For a deeper dive into I-9 compliance and answers to common questions, download our comprehensive Guide to Form I-9.