Today, we’re going to talk about Form I-9…the federal form that employers use to verify the identity and employment eligibility of nearly ALL employees. As a general rule, U.S. employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each employee hired to work in the United States…citizen or non-citizen. It sounds simple, but there are lots of questions surrounding I-9s…and as an employer, you need the right answers.
Form I-9 is a routine--and required--part of onboarding new employees. The form is composed of three main sections: employee information and verification of identity and eligibility to work, employer review and verification of documents, and a third section that is used when reverification or updates are necessary.
Let’s jump right in and take a look at some of the most common questions employers have regarding I-9 forms:
- Do I need to complete I-9 forms for independent contractors?
- Am I responsible for the authenticity of documents presented for verification?
- What if there’s a mistake on an I-9?
- Can I fire an employee who fails to produce the required documents?
- How can I protect private information on Form I-9?
Now let’s answer these questions, one at a time.
Do you need to complete Form I-9 for independent contractors or their employees?
The answer to this is no. You do NOT need to complete Form I-9 for independent contractors, and any contractor you engage is responsible for completing the I-9s for its own employees. However, you may not use a contract to obtain the labor or services of an employee knowing that the individual is not legally authorized to work.
Next, are you responsible for the authenticity of documents presented by employees for verification?
Many employers ask this question, and the answer is two-fold. You must carefully examine the documents, and if they appear to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting them, you must accept them. Refusing to do so could be considered an unfair immigration-related employment practice. However, if they do NOT appear genuine or to relate to the employee, you must not accept them.
What if you find a mistake on Form I-9?
If you find a mistake on a Form I-9, correct it. The best way to correct Form I-9 is to line through the portions of the form that contain incorrect information, then enter the correct information. Initial and date your correction. If you have previously made changes on Forms I-9 in White-Out instead, you should attach a note to the corrected Forms I-9 explaining what happened. Be sure to sign and date the note.
Next…can you fire an employee for failing to provide Form I-9 documentation? Yes, you may. You can terminate an employee who fails to produce the required document or documents within three business days of the date employment begins.
Lastly, let’s address how to protect the information on Form I-9. You must keep Form I-9 and all supporting documentation in a secure place. The forms contain private information concerning your employees and you are required to retain forms for specific periods of time. Ensure that the information is kept confidential, and that it is used ONLY for the purposes stated on the form. Lock or secure all the documents, and limit access to a small number of authorized personnel.
Remember, while maintaining records such as Form I-9 may not be the most glamorous part of your job as a manager or HR professional, it is one of the most important! To learn more about Form I-9 and other HR recordkeeping best practices, visit us online at HR360.com.
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