Given the federal government’s focus on reducing illegal immigration, now more than ever, employers need to be certain they are complying with hiring laws. Key among them are the Form I-9 requirements, which requires employers to verify an employee’s identity and right to work in the United States.
If you’re not already familiar with this form – or just need a refresher – here are five important guidelines for maintaining I-9 records:
1. Make sure you’re using the most recent I-9 form
Due to occasional revisions of the form, you’ll need to check that you’re working with the most up-to-date version. The current I-9 reads 11/14/2016 in the lower left corner, with an expiration date of 08/31/2019. As of January 22, 2017, the new form must be used for new hires, as all previous versions are invalid.
2. Capture the right information
You must complete Section 2 within three days of the employee’s start date. (The employee should fill out Section 1 on the first day of work.) Once you’ve reviewed the appropriate documents to establish identity and eligibility to work, double check that you’ve entered the employee’s citizenship/immigration status, the requested details from the documents, the hire date, and your business name and address. Then, you must sign and date the section. Keep in mind that completing the form incorrectly, skipping required sections or neglecting to sign the form can result in steep fines.
3. Plan to reverify documentation as needed
Your work is done once you’ve reviewed the necessary documentation and completed an I-9 for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The process differs, however, for foreign workers with temporary authorization. These workers must indicate the expiration date under Section 1 of the I-9, and you must then reverify their eligibility to work in the U.S. on or before this date. You can do this by completing Section 3 or filling out a new I-9 altogether.
4. Securely store your I-9s separately from other employee records
You may be tempted to file an I-9 in the employee’s personnel file, but don’t. Instead, store I-9s for your entire staff in a separate folder. Even better, compile them in a binder, where you can tab the forms with upcoming expiration dates. An online calendar is helpful, too, with alerts (30 to 90 days in advance) for upcoming reverifications.
5. Toss I-9s as soon as it’s legal to do so
Under federal law, you must keep the I-9 for three years after the employee’s first day of work or one year after the last day of work – whichever is later. After this date, shred and discard the paperwork. This date matters because you can still be fined for improperly completed forms, even when they’re kept past the retention timeframe. By only keeping the required forms, your risk of being fined for I-9 errors and omissions is reduced.
More Guidance Just a Click Away
Remember: No hiring process is fully legal unless you complete an I-9 form for every new hire. If you need more details on how the I-9 works and what you must do, check out ComplyRight's handy tip sheet.