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Verifying Employee Work Authorization In the United States With Immigration Form I9

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
May 8, 2020

In this article, we discuss the importance of Immigration Form I-9, the Employment Eligibility Verification, for all hiring employers. We will answer the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the I-9 form;
  • When must you complete the I-9 form;
  • How do you complete the I-9 form; and
  • What are the penalties for not completing the I-9 form or falsifying information?

What is the Purpose of the Employment Eligibility Verification, I-9, form?

The I-9, Employment Eligibility and Verification Form, verifies that an employee is legally able to work in the United States. This form is completed by many employees when beginning a new job regardless of the industry, the new employee’s citizen status, or the new employee’s position in the company. This form is not meant to weed out everyone other than US citizens; permanent residents, potential employees with work visas, and many others may legally work in the US. However, the form is meant to identify unauthorized aliens. Employers in Illinois and the rest of the United States may not knowingly hire or recruit unauthorized aliens for employment, nor can they continue to employ workers who fail to provide proper documentation of their identity and authorization to work in the United States.

When Must the Employee Complete the I-9 Form?

Most employers will have the new hire complete the I-9 form on the first day of work, or possibly during an “orientation day” prior to the start of the new job. In any event, the form must be completed within the first three business days of the new hire starting working. If the individual will be employed for less than three days the form must be completed by the end of the first working day. If the form was previously completed by the employee, but the employee is being rehired for whatever reason section 3 “Reverification and Rehires” needs to be filled out only in the following three situations:

  1. The employee has changed his or her name;
  2. The employee’s original work authorization has expired or will soon expire; or
  3. The employee’s original hiring date was within the last three years

Completing the I-9 Form

This article is meant to give a high-level summary of completing the I-9 Form. Most employers will have streamlined this process and use an outside program, such as E-Verify, to run the information entered by the employee. If you believe your case is unique, or you’re concerned about something that may come up during your verification, we suggest reaching out to one of our qualified attorneys to discuss your situation.

The first step is having the employee complete the first part of the form. They will record their basic identifying information such as name, birth date, address, and telephone number. Here the employee will also swear their legal authorization to work in the United States and indicate their citizenship status. The employee must sign this document under penalty of perjury or it is invalid. This portion of the form must be completed by the end of the first workday

Next, the employee must provide documents that prove both her identity and work authorization. Below is a non-exhaustive list of sufficient documents:

Documents that Establish Both identity and Work Eligibility:

  • Unexpired or expired US passport
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of US Citizenship
  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Card with Photograph
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Card
  • Unexpired Temporary Resident Card
  • Unexpired foreign passport and I-94 Form
  • Others

In case the employee doesn’t have any of the above documents she would need to provide one document from each of the two following lists:

Documents that Establish Identity

  • Drivers License or ID that contains a photograph and basic identification information
  • ID card issued by federal, state or local government with basic identification information
  • School ID card with photograph
  • Voter’s Registration Card
  • U.S. Military Card
  • Others

Documents that Establish Employment Eligibility

  • U.S. Social Security Card
  • Certificate of Birth Abroad (Form FS-545 or DS-1350
  • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate
  • U.S. Citizen ID Card (I-197) or ID card for use of a resident citizen (I-179)

The company must examine the documents and verify, to the best of their ability, that the documents are original. The employee handling the hiring of the individual must sign off on her examination and verification of the documents under penalty of perjury and provide some basic identifying information.

What Should the Company Do With the Completed I-9 Form?

The company is required to keep the completed I-9 form on file (a physical or electronic copy will suffice) for the duration of the employee’s employment (up to 3 years) and/or for one year after the employee’s employment ends. 

Penalties For Incomplete, Falsified, or Missing I-9 Documents

If a company is unable to produce an employee’s I-9 documents upon request by ICE or other auditors, or it is found there is an error or falsified information in the documents, the company faces a penalty ranging from $375 to $16,000 per violation and possible legal action against the company. The company may also face debarment by the federal government, excluding them from possible future federal contracts.

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