Before you finalize hiring new employees, you must have them complete a list of new hire paperwork. One document in this list is Form I-9—Employment Eligibility Verification. To complete the form, the employee must show you documents verifying that they are eligible to work in the U.S.
Learn how Form I-9 works, including how you and your new hires can complete this important form.
- Form I-9 must be completed for every new hire at your small business, to verify the person's eligibility to work in the U.S.
- The employee must present documents showing both identity and work eligibility, and the employer must review and verify the documents.
- You don't have to submit Form I-9 to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service, but you should keep signed copies in case of an audit or investigation.
What Is Form I-9?
Form I-9, or Employment Eligibility Verification Form, is required by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) to provide documentation that a newly hired employee is authorized to work in the U.S. The new employee must fill out this form and provide appropriate documentation of (a) identity and (b) employment eligibility, and the employer must review and verify the documents.
Form I-9 is periodically updated. To be sure you have the latest form, look at the expiration date in the top right-hand corner. For more information about Form I-9 revision dates, you can sign up to receive email updates from the USCIS.
Who Needs To Complete Form I-9?
Form I-9 must be completed by each new employee and their employer at the time of hire—this means before or on the first day of employment. But you can't require someone to complete the form before they accept a job with your company.
You don't need to use an I-9 to verify the work eligibility of independent contractors (non-employees, casual domestic workers, or employees not working in the U.S.). Self-employed business owners don't need to complete this form because they are not employees. One exception: Owners of a corporation sometimes work as employees. In this case, complete Form I-9 and have it on file for each owner/employee.
You have the right to not hire an applicant or to terminate an employee who fails to produce the required employment verification documents or whom you know is not authorized to work in the United States.
How To Fill Out an I-9 Form
Completing Form I-9 is a two-step process. First, the employee completes their part, with personal information and information about their eligibility to work in the U.S. Then, the employee presents documents supporting their statements and the employer reviews the documents and verifies them.
The employee must present documents showing both identity and work eligibility. They can do this in one of two ways:
- Presenting one List A document (like a passport) showing both identity and work eligibility
- Presenting a List B document showing identity and a Type C document showing work eligibility.
The employee completes this part of the form by giving their name and other personal information. They must also attest to their work status, with appropriate document numbers:
- Citizen of the U.S.
- Noncitizen national
- Lawful permanent resident
- Alien authorized to work until an expiration date
If someone is translating for the employee, they must include the translator's information.
In this section, the employer includes information about the document or documents the employee gives them. Enter one document from List A or one document from each of List B and List C:
- Document title
- Issuing authority
- Document number
- Expiration date (or "N/A" if none)
You must also include the employee's first date of employment and give information about the signer of the form and the employer or an authorized representative.
You must look at the documents provided by each employee and you must accept them if they appear to be genuine. You cannot accept copies, except for birth certificates. The USCIS will not verify specific documents unless they are submitted through the E-Verify system.
This section is for re-verification and rehires. You can use this part of the form to re-verify an employee for a document that has expired.
Where Do You File Form I-9?
You don't need to send a copy of each Form I-9 to the USCIS. Make sure you have a completed form (both the employer and employee sections) for each employee and keep the forms where you can retrieve them in case of an audit or inspection.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is an I-9 form used for?
The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) requires employers to use Form I-9 to verify the identity of new employees and the employee's eligibility to work in the U.S. Employees must present documents to the employer that show both identity and eligibility, and the employer must review and verify the documents by noting document titles.
Both the employer and employee attest to the documents, with penalties if they commit perjury by giving false information. An employer cannot hire or must fire a new hire or employee who doesn't have the appropriate documentation or who is known not to be authorized to work in the U.S.
Is there an electronic version of the I-9 form?
Form I-9 is available in a fillable PDF version that you can use to fill in the information in the blanks and save it on a computer. You can also download it on a mobile device. The download version can't be electronically signed, so even if you enter the information on the PDF form, you must print it out to be signed by both your company's representative and the new employee.
You can also get a Spanish version of the I-9 form, but it can only be used in Puerto Rico. The English version of the form must be used in all other U.S. states and territories.
What is the penalty for not completing Form I-9?
Employers may be penalized for perjury (giving false statements) for knowingly hiring an unauthorized employee, Employers are also prohibited from hiring anyone, including U.S. citizens, without verifying their identity and employment authorization on Form I-9.
Employers may be fined if the form is not properly completed, and individuals may be prosecuted for knowingly and willfully entering false information. Penalties and fines for these violations may be imposed for each individual (employee) who was unauthorized or unverified. You must save all I-9 forms and have them available if the USCIS inspects your business.