Valid Forms of ID for the I-9

As set forth in the 1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act, employees applying to work at businesses in the United States must fill out a Form I-9, which helps establish identity and eligibility to work. This federal form requires basic information from employees as well as one or more of valid forms of ID that attest to the employee’s identification. Employers are then responsible for reviewing the documents in good faith for authenticity.

The entire process can sound deceptively simple, but many employers struggle in particular with questions about valid forms of ID for I-9s. To help companies navigate this aspect of the Form I-9 and others, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services created a roughly one-hundred-page manual. While this resource can be of assistance, many companies are also enlisting the help of digital I-9 software for paperless solutions that help save time and minimize human error.


Valid Forms of ID for the I-9

The second section of the Form I-9 is the part that deals most directly with valid forms of ID. Depending on the unique circumstances of each employee, one or more documents proving identification from Lists A, B, or C may be required.

The primary purpose of List A documents is to establish identity and employment authorization. Some of the documents employees can choose to present from this list include:

  • United States Passport or United States Passport Card.
  • Foreign Passports. This type of identification should be presented with required forms, proper notations, and stamps.
  • Permanent Resident Card. These are sometimes referred to as “green cards” and must not have expired to be considered valid. This card usually has a signature unless marked with the official notation of “signature waived.”
  • Previous Permanent Resident Card. This form of ID typically requires a signature unless it is marked with the official designation of “signature waived.”
  • Previous Employment Authorization Document. To be acceptable, this official document cannot be expired.
  • Employment Authorization Card. This card must not have expired to be considered valid.

The primary purpose of List B documents is to simply establish identity, and most employees who present a document from List B will also need to present a document from List C. Some of the valid forms of ID for I-9s on List B can include:

  • Driver’s License. To be valid, the license must be from the United States or one of its outlying territories. It must display a photo or detailed personal description and address and must not be expired.
  • ID Card Issued by a State or Outlying Territory of the United States. This form of ID often requires the employee provide additional information.
  • Voter Registration Card.
  • Federal, State, or Local Government Agency or Entity ID. These forms of identification must be official and may require additional information.
  • United States Military Card or Draft Record.
  • Military Dependent’s ID Card.
  • ID For Minors. For most minors, identification in the form of an official medical record, a school record, or a report card will suffice.

List C documents generally show identity and authorization to work in the U.S. and are presented in tandem with one or more List B documents. Valid forms of ID for I-9s regarding List C generally include:

  • S. Social Security Account Number Card. This card must be unrestricted, meaning it must not say “not valid for employment” or “valid for work only with…”
  • United States Citizen ID Card.
  • Original or Certified Copy of Birth Certificate Issued by a State, County, Municipal Authority, or Outlying Territory of the United States. To be valid, this certificate must bear an official seal.
  • Certification of Birth Abroad. This certification should be issued by the U.S. Department of State to be valid.
  • Certification Report of Birth. This certification must also be issued by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States.
  • Native American Tribal Document.


How to Examine Valid Forms of ID for the I-9

As long as an employee provides sufficient documentation that sensibly gives the impression of being genuine, relates to that specific employee, and is listed as an acceptable document on List A, B, or C of the Form I-9, employers may accept the documentation.

If an employee presents a document from List A, B, or C that does not appear to be genuine or relating to the employee, employers can reject the document and ask the employee for a different form of ID as specified by the Form I-9, but must not be discriminatory in doing so.


Digital I-9 Software and I-9 Documents

When it comes to organizing valid forms of ID for I-9s, digital I-9 software can help to organize and streamline the process. Some of the ways digital I-9 software can help employers manage valid forms of ID for I-9s include:

  • Software should provide employees with an advance list of the questions and fields that must be answered on the Form I-9. This allows employees to adequately prepare so Form I-9 timelines can be met. Employers should also receive a checklist to keep the form process on task.
  • Action Reminders. The software program usually assists in keeping track of expired identification documents and should prompt employers with an action alert if an expiration date is impending.
  • Paperless Solutions. Perhaps one of the best features of digital I-9 software is its ability to digitize and archive documents. This method is key in providing centralized reporting abilities.


By learning more about the valid forms of ID for I-9s, employers can feel confident in the process and rely on digital I-9 software to assist with compliance.

How to Handle an Ice Audit

With the incidence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations estimated to have quadrupled in recent years and the number of Form I-9 audits and audit-related arrests estimated to have also increased, it is more important than ever for employers to be able to prepare for and know how to handle an ICE audit.

Since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the federal government requires employers to have all employees complete a Form I-9 to help establish identity and authorization to work within the United States. Federal law agencies such as Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part of, also have the right to announce an audit or conduct a raid to review an employer’s Form I-9 procedure and overall compliance.

However, employers who are well versed in proper Form I-9 protocol and how to handle an ICE audit should have more peace of mind in the event that the company receives a Notice Of Inspection (NOI).


Ice Audits and the Form I-9

According to federal law, ICE is responsible for enforcing I-9 compliance mandates through the Homeland Security Investigations Division, which can also be referred to as the Worksite Enforcement Unit. While Homeland Security is responsible for overseeing a number of domestic and international situations, audits for I-9 compliance are a small but serious portion of the organization’s job.

In recent years, the number of audits are said to have increased so dramatically that the organization has had to pull in a number of employees for additional help during times when there is a high surge of activity. This situation alone should be enough motivation to propel a company to be proactive in being Form I-9 compliant.


What can trigger an I-9 audit?

One of the most common questions employers ask is, “How likely am I to be subjected to a compliance audit?” More often than not, the answer to that question depends on:

  • Credible Tips. Whether a tip is submitted via phone or online, it is typically first examined for credibility. It is not unusual for Homeland Security to receive a tip from a current or former disgruntled employee or even a disgruntled competitor.
  • Previous Audits. It is not uncommon for companies that have been previously audited to also have a follow up visit. Employers who have already experienced one Form I-9 audit should follow all of the investigator’s recommendations in preparation for what could become audit number two.
  • Red Flag From a Government Agency. In some cases another government agency could red flag a company if there is concern related to something like wage investigation or a company being an Equal Employment Opportunity employer.
  • Mismatch Letter Receipt. Companies that receive a letter from the Social Security Administration acknowledging that a social security number does not match a person’s name could eventually be subjected to an audit. In many cases a mismatch letter can simply be the result of human error.

Regardless of what triggered the audit, employers receiving a NOI should be prepared to turn over Form I-9 documents to the federal government to prove compliance.


Form I-9 Violation Consequences

If a company is audited there are several key things that investigators will be looking for, which may include:

  • A completed Form I-9 for all current employees
  • Adherence to Form I-9 deadlines
  • Proper Form I-9 protocol

After a review of these primary areas, investigators may then assign fines or other consequences for violations that are civil or criminal in nature.

Civil fines generally related to incomplete forms, missing signatures, and missed deadlines can be as high as several thousand dollars per offense.

Consequences for criminal violations such as patterns of knowingly hiring undocumented individuals or harboring individuals in the U.S. could result in heavy fines, loss of workforce, or loss of a business license. Additional areas that could result in damaging consequences may include criminal violations such as perjury, VISA fraud, identity fraud, identity theft, tax fraud, or mistreatment of workers.


How to Handle an ICE Audit

One of the best ways to handle an ICE audit is preparation. With the number of worksite investigations on the rise, every company should be making every reasonable effort to get its Form I-9 protocol in order. While the process can sound daunting, resources such as digital I-9 software may be able to help.

Digital I-9 software typically offers users the following features:

  • Printable checklist for employees to get familiar with the information that will be requested the first day of work
  • Printable checklist for employers to help keep track of an employee’s Form I-9 progress
  • Error Alerts for blank fields, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • Document expiration alerts for documents that are set to soon expire
  • Document archiving guidance
  • Centralized reporting that can provide compliance reports at any time
  • Audit assistance

Once a firm I-9 compliance resource is in place, it is crucial to train management. Fortunately, most digital software programs are designed to be user-friendly and require minimal training for proper use.  From that point on, it is crucial that the employer maintains consistency in management, including holding regular training on Form I-9 protocol and periodic training management on digital I-9 software for current and new management alike.


By learning what typically prompts an audit, what ICE looks for in an audit, and how to handle an ICE audit with digital I-9 software, employers can be better equipped and prepared to achieve and maintain compliance.

How Do You Fill Out an I-9 Form

One of the most frequently asked questions of employers and employees alike is, “How do you fill out an I-9 form?” The question does not yield a short answer, but by learning more about the I-9 form and resources available to help with the form’s completion, the process of filling out the form can be both manageable and efficient.


What is an I-9 form?

Before learning how to fill out the Form I-9, it is helpful to know its origins and understand why it is important. The Form I-9 is a byproduct of the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed in 1986. This form was essentially designed by the federal government to verify an individual’s identity and eligibility to work within the United States.


Are employees required to fill out the Form I-9?

It is the law for employers to have employees complete a Form I-9. All employees working in the United States are required to fill out a Form I-9 to prove eligibility authorization. As soon as an employer offers a job to an individual, the employee can begin filling out the Form I-9. The employer is responsible for getting the form to the employee and ensuring that the individual properly completes it within the form’s allotted deadlines.


How can I get a Form I-9?

Many employers may already have a blank Form I-9 on hand, but it can also generally be found online at the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and may be downloaded to your computer.


How do you fill out an I-9 form?

The Form I-9 is comprised of three main sections. Each section requires a different set of information or documentation and has a unique deadline. In order to be compliant, employers must ensure that all three sections are completed properly and on time.

Section 1

The first section of the Form I-9 is generally used for establishing the identity of the employee. For the purpose of this section, employees are typically asked to provide basic information such as:

  • Full name
  • Birth date
  • Contact information
  • Social Security number

In addition to confirming the employee’s identity, this first section of the form is also designed to confirm the employee’s legal eligibility to work in the United States by proving:

  • Citizenship
  • Status of nonresident national of the United States
  • Lawful permanent residency
  • Authorization as an alien to work in the United States

As dictated by the form, this section must be completed by the employee’s first day of employment.

Section 2

Much of the second section of the form is the employer’s responsibility, and it involves the employee’s documentation. The Form I-9 has three lists of documents that are approved to use for this section:

  • List A Documents: The approved documents on this list generally establish an employee’s identity and employment authorization.
  • List B Documents: The approved documents on List B are used for establishing the identity of an employee. If an employee uses a document from List B, presenting a document from List C is also typically required.
  • List C Documents: The documents on this list are used to establish an employee’s work authorization in the United States. If presenting a document from List C, an approved document from List B is also usually required.

This section of the I-9 Form must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment. Employers are required to examine each document in good faith for authenticity. It is worth noting that perjury penalties can be assigned for knowingly presenting fraudulent documents.

Section 3

This last section of the form comes into play if an employee has a name change, a renewal of an expiring work authorization, or is a rehire within three years of the date on the original Form I-9. Employers are largely responsible for section three.


Additional Resources for Filling Out An I-9 Form

Employers who have specific questions about the Form I-9, questions about how to fill out an I-9 form, or the corresponding deadlines may wish to seek out additional resources to facilitate the process.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Handbook for Employers M-274 may be a good resource for employers. The manual is rather extensive and can typically be downloaded and printed for reference.

A user-friendly option that many employers are increasingly turning to is digital I-9 compliance software.  These software programs are created to guide employers through each step of how to fill out an I-9 form and help minimize common human errors made on the form. Reputable software programs should also be able to interface with the E-Verify program.


How Compliance Software Can Make Filling Out I-9 Forms Easier

Digital I-9 compliance software can provide an extra layer of protection and peace of mind for employers. It is specifically designed to be user-friendly, detail oriented, efficient, and can be particularly useful for employers with multiple office locations.

Some of the benefits of working with digital I-9 compliance software can include:

  • A digital and paperless solution
  • Minimization of commonly made human errors such as blank fields, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • Printable checklists for employees and employers to facilitate the Form I-9 process
  • Time-sensitive reminders regarding the deadlines of each section of the form
  • Document tracking to allow employers to update Form I-9 documents before they expire and become a roadblock to compliance
  • Document archiving reminders
  • Centralized reporting for audits


By enlisting the help of resources such as digital I-9 compliance software, learning how to fill out an I-9 form can be less stressful for employers and employees.

Q: Do all employees have to fill out a Form I-9 for employers?

A:  Yes, they do.

Q: Is there a program that helps fill out an I-9 form?

A:  Yes, employers may want to consider purchasing digital I-9 compliance software.

Q: Can you fill out an I-9 form electronically?

A:  Digital I-9 compliance software digitizes the Form I-9.

Q: Can the I-9 Form be completed before an employee starts work?

A:  Yes, as long as the employer has extended a job offer.

Q: What happens if an employer doesn’t have an I-9 form for an employee?

A:  The employer can be found not compliant and may be subject to punitive consequences.

Does E-Verify Cost Anything

Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers are required to verify and authenticate their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. Since the passage of this law, employers’ responsibilities are numerous and deadline-oriented when it comes to the proper completion of the Form I-9. The process can be tedious, which is why businesses are increasingly utilizing additional resources such as E-Verify and digital I-9 compliance software that includes an E-Verify component.

E-Verify is a free web-based system created following the passage of the United States’ Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The goal of the system is to aid employers with the eligibility to work verification process by electronically matching an employee’s Form I-9 information against records accessible by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

An employer is often better prepared to be I-9 compliant by combining thorough research on the Form I-9 process and using additional resources such as E-Verify and digital I-9 compliance software.


How E-Verify Works

The E-Verify system uses the information provided by employees on the Form I-9 to verify the employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. The I-9 form is a one-page legal document that is required to be completed by employees and employers via specific guidelines and deadlines.

There are three main sections of the Form I-9. The first section is almost entirely dedicated to employee information and attestation. By the first day of employment, employees must accurately complete the form and employers should verify that the employee completed the section correctly. The second section of the form requires an employee to provide the necessary Form I-9 documents, and the employer must examine and vouch for the apparent authenticity of the documents…all within three business days of an employee’s first day on the job. The third section is primarily reserved for the purpose of reverification and rehires. This section must be completed if an employee’s name has legally changed, he/she is rehired within three years of the date on the Form I-9, or the employee’s work authorization has expired.

Once the Form I-9 has been completed by an employee, the employer can utilize E-Verify with that information to ensure work eligibility. The E-Verify program is geared to be user friendly and is accessible via the internet. It is designed to simply enhance the Form I-9 process, not take the place of it.  To use the program to verify employee work eligibility, an employer must simply be officially enrolled.

E-Verify allows enrolled employers to verify each employees’ eligibility to work by electronically matching the Form I-9 information of employees to records accessible by both the SSA and the DHS. One of the bonuses of utilizing E-Verify is that it may even have access to a photo of an employee to compare with any photo identification he/she submitted to the employer. Photos can be an added layer of protection if provided by the E-Verify system.

In many cases, E-Verify can provide work authorization for employees in approximately twenty-four hours or less. However, in some cases a manual review of records within government databases may be required and could take an extended period of time. In this particular instance, E-Verify typically lets employers know if this is the situation and will then eventually follow up with the final results. If for some reason there is not a match on E-Verify, the system sends procedures to the employer on how to proceed with that particular employee.

Combining the E-Verify system and digital I-9 compliance software with the Form I-9 may be an employer’s best proactive effort when it comes to staying I-9 compliant.

A company’s I-9 compliance is evaluated during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigation, which may or may not be announced in advance. Any I-9 violations can result in substantial consequences and penalties. Violations can be criminal or civil and carry a fine per employee. These fines can add up when multiple violations are found, and they may ultimately negatively impact a company’s bottom line.


Is E-Verify Required?

In many cases, a company’s enrollment in the E-Verify program is voluntary, however there are some exceptions to this rule. Employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that include the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause are required to enroll. Businesses located within a state that mandates enrollment in E-Verify must abide by the law and do so. Some employers may also be legally required to enroll in the E-Verify program after a legal ruling is handed down.

The E-Verify program is currently available to all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

An estimated 750,000 employers are thought to be registered with E-Verify, and twenty-two states currently require some type of participation.

While some companies choose to utilize the E-Verify system on their own, others who may experience a shortage of staff, time, and means often opt to hire an E-Verify employer agent to help them navigate the process. It is worth noting that these agents are not certified nor are their fees regulated by the government.


Benefits of an E-Verify Employer Agent

An E-Verify employer agent’s job is to work closely with a company and E-Verify to determine an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. In addition to federal law, these agents can also help companies comply with state laws.

In general, most E-Verify employer agents wear several hats and can assist companies with:

  • Determining an employee’s work eligibility
  • Conducting background checks for employees
  • Providing legal assistance and accounting services


Take some time to research the E-Verify program and consider if it is right for your company. Regardless of your decision, the goal is to keep your company Form I-9 compliant and hopefully avoid violations and expensive penalties.