What is an I-9 form?
The USCIS Form I-9 is an employment verification document created by the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Employers have to prove that the workers they hire are eligible for work in the U.S. as well as verify identities and the I-9 form is how that requirement is fulfilled. Employers who want to learn more about the process can reference Part 13 of the Handbook for Employers (M-274).
What information do I need?
Section 1. of the form is your information. You'll enter your last name, first name, middle initial, address, date of birth, Social Security number, email address and phone number.
In the next box, you'll attest (certify formally) your citizenship status. The final step is to sign and date. You can sign and date without your employer witnessing your signature.
To complete the I-9 Form, your employer will look at the documents you provide (see documentation section) and will fill out the remaining page of the form.
What new hires need to know:
As a new employee, you can expect to receive this form from your human resources manager or hiring point of contact. You'll need to fill out the form as well as provide the approved forms of documentation.
Most companies require you to complete this step within the first week of starting the job. The I-9 excerpt below displays the types of documents or IDs you're required to show. You'll have to bring the original form of the ID to your place of employment; photocopies or electronic versions are not allowed. For many employees, this means bringing your passport with you on your first day of work.
It's important to note your employer must accept any of the documents listed below, provided they are originals/certified copies. Employers aren't allowed to choose one form of preferred ID; they must follow the guidelines listed in the I-9 Form.
Documentation required to prove work eligibility
You only need one document from this list because these documents establish both identity and employment eligibility.
- U.S passport or passport card
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551)
- Foreign Passport with temporary I-551 stamp
- Employment Authorization Document that contains a photograph (Form I-766)
- For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work for a specific employer because of his or her status:
a. Foreign passport; and
b. Form I-94 or Form I-94A that has the following: (1) The same name as the passport; and (2) An endorsement of the alien's nonimmigrant status as long as that period of endorsement has not yet expired and the proposed employment is not in conflict with any restrictions or limitations identified on the form.
- Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association Between the United States and the FSM or RMI
These documents verify your identity.
- Driver's license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United States provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
- ID card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
- School ID card with a photograph
- Voter's registration card
- U.S. Military card (common access card) or draft record
- Military dependent's ID card
- U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
- Native American tribal document
- Driver's license issued by a Canadian government authority
If you're under 18 and don't have a document on the list above:
- School record or report card
- Clinic, doctor, or hospital record
- Day-care or nursery school record
These documents establish your employment eligibility.
- Social Security card without employment restrictions listed on it
- Original or certified copy of birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of the United States bearing an official seal
- Birth certificate issued by the Department of State (Forms DS-1350, FS-545, FS-240) (for those born outside of the U.S.)
- U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197)
- Native American tribal document
- Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the U.S. (Form I-179)
- Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security
When is an I-9 Form not required?
Most paid workers are required to submit I-9 forms to their place of employment.
However, you don't need an I-9 form if you:
- were hired on or before Nov. 6, 1986. (There are limitations to this exception apply.)
- were hired for employment in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) on or before Nov. 27, 2009.
- are hired for casual domestic work in a private home on a sporadic, irregular or intermittent basis.
- are an independent contractor. Freelance work falls under this category.
- are not physically working in the U.S.
- are volunteering for a company or organization.
When must the I-9 Form be completed?
You have three days from your start date to complete the form. Legally, you can be fired, or "terminated," if you fail to provide the required documentation. Most employers will have you complete the form during your first day of work as part of the onboarding/new-hire process.
Your form is valid at your employer indefinitely unless you have a gap in employment that exceeds one year.
Students, exchange visitors and foreign nationals on work visas are required to have their I-9 Form reverified with each extension.
Employers must retain I-9 Forms for three years after an employee's start date, or, for one year after termination (whichever is the later date).
I-9 History and background
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) into law. This strengthened immigration enforcement which included requiring U.S. employers to verify employment eligibility for new employees.
How does employer verification work?
As an employer, you can verify employee information using the government's online E-Verify system, available for all 50 states. The government states that it's "the best means available to electronically confirm employment eligibility." To use the site, you'll need your employee's Social Security which enables records to be checked in the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
Fairygodboss strives for accuracy in all articles. However, the information contained in this article should not be considered legal advice. State and federal laws often change which means this article might not reflect the most recent updates.