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What Is I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification?

What Is I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification?

It's a typical scenario at businesses around the country: You need to hire staff quickly, and potential employees arrive with great recommendations. They have all the skills and qualifications for their positions. While it's tempting to hire them on the spot and show them to their desks, don't move so fast. You need to complete Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

What is an I-9 form? It's a document that both you and the employee must sign attesting to their ability to work legally in the United States. You don't need to submit it to the IRS or any other government agency. You are, however, required to keep it on file for every employee who you hire.

In addition to signing the I-9 forms, a potential employee must show certain documents to prove his or her eligibility to work in the United States. The complete list of documents that an employee can show to prove their eligibility for employment is included on the back of the I-9 form, but some common documents that nearly everyone has that meet the I-9 requirements include the following:

Establishes both identity and employment authorization:

  • U.S. passport
  • Permanent resident card or alien resident card
  • Establishes identity only:

U.S. driver's license

  • School ID card
  • State ID card
  • Voter registration card
  • Military ID card
  • Establishes employment authorization:

Social Security card

  • Original, certified birth certificate
  • This list is not compehensive, and there are additional conditions, so be sure to read the details on the form.

Employer Responsibilities

The employer who signs the I-9 form must examine the documents presented at the time of employment. Your signature verifies that you looked closely at the documents and that they appeared to be in order.

You can't specify which documents someone can or can't show to apply for a job. Any documents from the list on the I-9 form can be accepted, as long as there's at least one document that proves identity and another that establishes employment authorization.

Many companies photocopy the documents submitted as part of the I-9 process, and while that's not required, it is a good idea. If questions arise later, you can demonstrate that the employee did indeed provide you with the required documents. Under no circumstances can you keep the original documents; these must always be returned to the employee immediately after examination and/or photocopying.

Maintain Good Records

Even if you hire only one or two employees, it's important to keep good records for each employee. Establish folders for employment records, I-9 forms and other documentation such as performance reviews, hours worked, job descriptions and more. If there's ever any question about your company's compliance with employment law, having the records handy will save you a lot of time and headaches later.

Finally, as with all government forms, be sure you are using the latest version. Further information is available on the official USCIS site.

Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

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