Brown Borkowski & Morrow


Photo of Brown Borkowski & Morrow legal team

Are you messing up your company’s I-9 process?

Immigration news regularly makes it to the front page of news sites and newspapers around the United States. As an employer, you may not think much about how immigration affects your organization. After all, you may not sponsor foreign workers. You do, however, have an affirmative obligation to verify the identity and work eligibility of everyone you hire.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act prevents U.S. employers from knowingly hiring those who lack authorization to work in the country. Since November 6, 1986, employers have had to complete an I-9 form for all new hires. While the form seems simple and straightforward, penalties for even seemingly minor paperwork violations can be costly. Here are two ways to ensure you complete your company’s I-9s properly.

Do not request specific documents 

By the end of the employee’s first day of work, he or she must complete section one of the I-9. The employee then has three days to provide documents that allow you to complete section two. You may not, however, request certain documents. Instead, you must provide the worker with the list of acceptable documents and allow him or her to provide any document or combination of documents that satisfies the I-9 requirements. Certainly, you do not want to use the I-9 process to impermissibly discriminate against employees because of their citizenship status, national origin or ethnic background.

Retain I-9 forms 

Provided your organization has at least four employees, you must have an I-9 on file for every employee hired on or after November 6, 1986. You also must keep I-9s for former employees for a period of time after employment. Generally, you must retain I-9 forms for one year from the date of termination of employment or three years from the date of hire, whichever is longer. Note, though, you can only determine I-9 retention for an employee’s form after he or she no longer works for you. If someone is still an employee, you need to have an I-9 on file.

There are a variety of ways to mess up the I-9 process. If you follow the rules when requesting documentation and retain your forms for the proper time period, though, you are likely ahead of the game. With a bit of effort, you can create an I-9 file that keeps you out of legal trouble.