As an employer, one of your most important responsibilities when hiring a new employee is to properly complete a Form I-9. It sounds simple, but it can be easy to make a mistake or get confused as to exactly what is required. Below are five frequently asked questions and answers regarding the Form I-9 which come from the Handbook for Employers-Instructions for Completing Form I-9 issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Q1. Do I need to fill out Forms I-9 for independent contractors or their employees?
A1. No. For example, if you contract with a construction company to perform renovations on your building, you do not have to complete Forms I-9 for that company's employees. The construction company is responsible for completing Forms I-9 for its own employees. However, you may not use a contract, subcontract or exchange to obtain the labor or services of an employee knowing that the employee is unauthorized to work.
Q2. What is my responsibility concerning the authenticity of document(s) presented to me?
A2. You must examine the document(s), and if they reasonably appear on their face to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting them, you must accept them. To do otherwise could be an unfair immigration-related employment practice. If the document(s) do not reasonably appear on their face to be genuine or to relate to the person presenting them, you must not accept them.
Q3. How do I correct a mistake on an employee's Form I-9?
A3. 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, USCIS recommends that you attach a note to the corrected Forms I-9 explaining what happened. Be sure to sign and date the note.
Q4. May I fire an employee who fails to produce the required documents?
A4. Yes. You may terminate an employee who fails to produce the required document or documents, or an acceptable receipt for a document, within three business days of the date employment begins.
Q5. How can I protect private information on Forms I-9?
A5. Since Form I-9 contains an employee's private information, and you are required to retain forms for specific periods of time, you should ensure that you protect that private information, and that it is used only for Form I-9 purposes. To protect employees' private information, ensure that completed Forms I-9 and all supporting documents, including photocopies of documents, as well as information regarding employment authorization if you participate in E-Verify, are stored in a safe, secure location that only authorized individuals can access.
Remember that completing Form I-9 is required by federal law for every employee you hire to work in the United States. Employers that violate the law may be subject to civil fines, as well as criminal penalties when there is a pattern or practice of violations. Our Form I-9 section includes additional common questions and answers for employers about the Form I-9 process. For more information on Form I-9 requirements, you can also visit I-9 Central, the USCIS site dedicated to Form I-9 help for employers.
To learn more about key recordkeeping requirements for employers under federal law, you can download our free Personnel Recordkeeping Guide.
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