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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.