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Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, all employers are required to verify the identity and the eligibility to work in the United States of all employees hired after November 6, 1986, using the Immigration and Naturalization Service Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification Form." Once completed, the form is not sent to the government, but you must keep it in your files in case an INS inspector ever wants to see it.
Provided the employee has the right documents, completing the form shouldn't take more than a minute or two. The form must be completed on the day of hire, or within three business days of hire. Employers and employees may sign the forms electronically and retain them in an electronic format.
The purpose of Form I-9 is to establish an employee's identity and his or her eligibility to work in the United States. Certain documents establish both identity and eligibility (List A). Other documents establish identity (List B) or eligibility to work (List C). Employees must provide a document from List A, or one document from List B and one document from List C.
List A. The following documents are sufficient to establish both identity and eligibility to work:
- a U.S. Passport or Passport Card (unexpired)
- a Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551)
- an unexpired foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation on a machine-readable immigrant visa
- an unexpired Employment Authorization Document that contains a photograph (Form I-766)
- an unexpired foreign passport with an unexpired Arrival-Departure record, Form I-94, bearing the same name as the passport and containing an endorsement of the alien's nonimmigrant status, if that status authorizes the alien to work for the employer.
- valid passports for citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), along with Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association Between the United States and the FSM or RMI.
If an employee can't provide one of the preceding documents, he or she must present a document establishing identity (List B) and another document establishing eligibility to work (List C).
List B. The following documents are acceptable proof of identity for individuals who are 18 years old or older:
- driver's license issued by a state or US possession containing a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color and address
- federal, state or local ID card containing the same information
- school ID with a photograph
- voter's registration card
- US military card or a draft card
- military dependent's ID card
- US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
- Native American tribal document
- driver's license issued by a Canadian governmental authority
For those under 18 years of age:
- school record or report card
- clinic, doctor or hospital record
- day-care or nursery school record
List C. The following documents are acceptable proof of eligibility to work:
- original Social Security card (copies not acceptable) issued by the Social Security Administration
- certification of birth abroad issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545 or Form DS-1350)
- original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, or municipal authority or US possession bearing an official seal
- Native American tribal document
- US Citizen ID Card (USCIS Form 1-197)
- ID Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States (USCIS Form 1-179)
- unexpired employment authorization document issued by DHS
What if the employee doesn't have the necessary documents? If a new employee is unable to produce the required documents within three business days of hiring, the employee must present:
- a receipt for the application of replacement documents within the three business days
- the required document within 90 days of hire
This procedure is not applicable to an alien who indicates that he or she does not have work authorization at the time of hiring.
Where do I keep I-9s and for how long? After you've completed the form, you must retain it for the duration of the employment. If an employee is terminated, be sure to retain the Form I-9 for three years from the date of hire or one year after termination, whichever is later. You don't have to keep copies of the documents the new employee showed you, though we recommend that you do. If you keep copies of those documents, they must be kept with the Form I-9s.
While there is no official electronic signature or recordkeeping standard for Form I-9, you may store your Form I-9s by using generally accepted standards for the electronic storage of records. The electronic system you use should provide easy access to inspectors, and you should be able to reproduce legible and readable hardcopies of the electronically stored Form I-9s.
State employment agency certification. Referrals from state employment agencies may have certificates that fulfill the I-9 requirements. If you have a state employment agency referral who has a certification, you have to retain that certification instead of the I-9.
E-Verify. E-Verify is an online program operated jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration, which allows participating employers to check the work status of new hires online by comparing information from an employee's Form I-9 against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security databases. E-Verify is free and is voluntary for most employers. Effective January 15, 2009, federal government contractors and subcontractors are required to use the E-Verify system. In addition, some states require employers to verify eligibility for employment through E-Verify.