Since the late twentieth century when the Immigration and Reform Control Act was passed, companies have been required to complete the Form I-9 for employees by specific deadlines, but many companies are wondering, “Can an I-9 be completed prior to a start date for the employee?” The question is a valid one, especially with the number of guidelines pertaining to the form.
The short answer is that yes, a Form I-9 can be completed prior to the start date of an employee. That said, there are some important requirements that still apply regardless of when the form is started. Failure to adhere to these mandates can result in a company being found not compliant. With a number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids that have taken place in 2019, it is more important than ever for companies to stay I-9 compliant.
Smart, proactive businesses will take a periodic refresher course in what it takes to become or stay Form I-9 compliant because failure to do so could ultimately affect a company’s bottom line, work force, or the operation of the business itself.
The Structure of a Form I-9
Since the Immigration and Reform Control Act went into effect, the Form I-9 has been a requirement for employees hired by companies to work in the United States. The act was created to help establish the identity of an individual and determine the individual’s eligibility to work in the U.S.
There are three main sections on a Form I-9. Each section outlines specific responsibilities and corresponding deadlines for completion.
- Section 1: The first section of this form is dedicated to the intake of information from an employee and it must be completed by the employee’s first day on the job. Employees must complete the form in its entirety and sign it to vouch for its accuracy. Employers must ensure the employee completed the form properly.
- Section 2: The second section of the form requires employees to provide proper identification documents as cited by the Form I-9 to the employer. Once all forms of identification have been submitted, employers must then in good faith vouch for the apparent authenticity. This must be completed no later than three business days from an employee’s first day on the job.
- Section 3: The last section of the Form I-9 is primarily for the employer to complete in the event that there is a modification such as an employee’s name change, an expiration of work authorization, or rehiring within three years of the original date listed on the Form I-9.
Can the I-9 be completed prior the employee’s start date?
Although the Form I-9 does have several specific deadlines, it may be started prior to the first day of work for the employee. In fact, the form may be completed as soon as the individual accepts a job offer. Regardless of when the form is started, it must still meet Form I-9 guidelines.
However, employers should be wary of a Form I-9 that is completed too far in advance of an employee’s start date. This time gap could allow for several errors that could put a company’s ability to be compliant in jeopardy. Some instances in which this could be a factor may include:
- A change in the originally listed start date that is not noted by the employer
- A change in the employee’s name or work authorization status
- The employee’s acceptance of a different job
Even though the Form I-9 can be completed prior to the start date of an employee, it might not be in a company’s best interest to do so. At the very least, it creates the need for an eye for detail before submitting the final form, but it could put the company’s compliance at risk.
How Digital I-9 Software Can Help a Company Stay I-9 Compliant
Regardless of whether the I-9 is completed prior to the start date or on an employee’s first day on the job, the detailed guidelines and deadlines of the form can make it a complex process. This is why many companies are turning to additional resources to help streamline the I-9 process.
Although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services created a helpful handbook for employers, this resource is more than one hundred pages long and can be time intensive to review. To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, many businesses are also choosing to enlist the help of digital I-9 compliance software.
The software is designed to catch common mistakes, minimize human error, and help employers stay on top of any impending deadlines. Another benefit is that the program tends to give employers greater peace of mind when it comes to I-9 compliance.
Some of the features that digital I-9 software programs can provide may include:
- Information Checklists: These programs should have a built in checklist that can be provided in advance to employees. This helps employees be better prepared to gather the information needed to complete the Form I-9. Employers should also have access to a checklist to help them ensure deadlines are efficiently met.
- Error Minimization: Digital I-9 software helps minimize common human errors such as an incomplete or blank field or a missing signature on the form. This feature can be particularly helpful for a Form I-9 completed prior to the start date for an employee.
- Action Required Reminders: These software programs should also alert employers when action is required regarding an upcoming deadline or an expired document. These reminders could be crucial to a company’s success in staying compliant.
- User Friendly Reporting: Rather than waiting for an audit to find out if the company is compliant, software reporting features allow companies to check their general compliance status on demand.
The answer to, “Can an I-9 be completed prior to an employee’s start date?” is yes, but proceed with caution. Be aware of any changes that may need to be made before submitting the final document. Be more prepared and confident by enlisting the help of a digital I-9 software.