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Step-By-Step: How To Fill Out An I-9 Form

Author: Ethan Williams

When you hire a new employee, you must verify that the person is legally eligible to work in the United States. Once you've made a job offer (but not before), the new employee must demonstrate eligibility to work in the U.S. by completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. As an employer it is your responsibility to see that this form from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is completed by the employee and you. Retain the form with your other employment records; do not file it with the government.

(For more on employers' responsibilities when hiring, see 8 Things Employers Aren't Allowed To Ask You.)

What's the form for?

The I-9 form is designed to obtain information from new employees that demonstrates their eligibility to work legally in the U.S. No worker is exempt from having to complete the form. It has three parts:

Part I

For the Employee, Establishing Identity

This part of the form is completed by the employee. It includes information such as the employee'​s full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number (if applicable), e-mail address,and telephone number (the e-mail address and phone number are optional).

This part is also used to attest – under penalty of perjury – that the person is legally eligible to work in the United States because he or she is:

  • A citizen
  • A nonresident national of the United States
  • A lawful permanent resident
  • An alien authorized to work in the U.S. The employee must enter the expiration date for this authorization if applicable.

An employee who is an alien and authorized to work must enter the alien registration number (an A-number which is a unique 7-, 8- or 9-digit number assigned to an alien) or Form I-94 admission number.

The employee must sign the form and date it. False statements can result in fines and/or imprisonment.

Some employees may need assistance to complete their portion of the form. If the employee is a minor or disabled, or needs translation, the person aiding in the completion of the form (preparer and/or translator) must also enter his/her name and address and then sign the form (also under penalty of perjury).

Part II

For the Employer, Reviewing the Employee's Documents

This part of the form is completed by the employer. It describes the documents that the employer has reviewed to verify eligibility of employment. The employer should take this action within three days of the first day of employment. The employer can, but is not required to, photocopy the document(s) presented.

There are three lists of documents that can be used. The type of documents used dictate the portion of Part II that the employer must complete.

List A. The documents in this list establish both the employee's identity and employment authorization. An employee need only present one of the following forms to satisfy the document requirement:

  • U.S. passport (or U.S. passport code)
  • Permanent resident card (green card) or alien registration receipt card (technically, the green card is Form I-551)
  • Foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp
  • Employment authorization document that contains a photograph (Form I-766)
  • For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work: a foreign passport and Form I-94 (or 94A) and an endorsement of the alien's nonimmigrant status as long as it has not expired
  • Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands

List B. The documents in this list show the identity of the employee. If an employee does not have a document from List A, he or she must produce one document from List B plus one document from List C (below).

  • Driver's license or ID card issued by a state (as long as it contains a photo ID and other personal information)
  • School ID with a photograph
  • Voter's registration card
  • U.S. military card or draft record
  • Military dependent's ID card
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine card
  • Native American tribal document
  • Driver's license issued by a Canadian government authority

For minors (under age 18) who cannot produce one of the documents in List B, alternative documents that are acceptable to prove the employee's identity include a school record or report card; client, doctor, or hospital record; or day-care or nursery school record.

List C. This document establishes the employee's authorization to work in the United States. Again, if the employee cannot produce a document from List A, he or she must produce one from List B and one from List C.

  • Social Security account number card (unless the card says: not valid for employment, valid only for work with INS authorization, or valid for work only with DHS authorization)
  • Certification of birth abroad issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545)
  • Certification of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form DS-1350)
  • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of the U.S. that has an official seal
  • Native American tribal document
  • U.S. citizen ID card (Form I-197)
  • Identification Card for use of resident citizen in the United States (Form I-179)
  • Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security

As in the case of the employee, employers must attest under penalty of perjury that they have reviewed the necessary documents, believe they are genuine and believe to the best of their knowledge that the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. In addition to signing the certification section, the employer must note the employee's first day of employment as well as other employer information (the name of the business, the title of the person signing the form and the business's address).

Part III

For the Employer, When Rehiring

This part of the form is also completed only by the employer, but is used only in the case of reverifying when rehiring an employee. If an employee is rehired within three years of the date of the original I-9, the employer can opt to complete this section or a new I-9.

If it is necessary to complete this part, then the employer merely lists the name of the employee (or new name if the employee has had a name change) and date of rehire. If the previous authorization of employment expired but has now been extended, enter information about the document establishing such authorization (document title, number and new employment authorization expiration date). As in the case of the other parts, the employee must sign under penalty of perjury that he/she believes the document presented is genuine and that the employee is authorized to work in the United States.

The Bottom Line

Employers must retain I-9s for the later of three years from the date of hire or one year after the date employment ends. From time to time, the federal government may examine your employment records. If you fail to produce I-9s, you can be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. Find more information about the I-9 from the Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9. If you have any further questions about the I-9, you can consult with an employment law attorney.

(Business owners may also be interested in Filling Out 1099 Forms and Filling Out Form 4562, Step-By-Step.)

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