In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, requiring all employers to document and verify that all new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States using Form I-9. Although the form has changed a few times in the nearly 30 years since it was created, the general information collected and the way we have to maintain these documents is relatively the same. The form itself is divided into 3 sections, each of which will be addressed in this article.

Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation - The I-9 process may begin once a job offer has been extended by the company and accepted by the applicant. However, no later than the first day the employee begins work, he or she must complete Section 1 of Form I-9. In this box, the employee will provide his or her name and address, date of birth, attest to his or her citizenship status, etc. Although there is a field for a Social Security number to be included in this section of the form, it is voluntary for all employees unless the employer participates in the USCIS E-Verify Program. Providing an email address or telephone number is also voluntary.

If the employee is unable to complete Section 1 without assistance or if he or she needs Form I-9 translated, someone is permitted to assist the individual. The preparer or translator must sign the form in the appropriate place.

Although there is a Spanish version of Form I-9 available, it is not permitted for employers to allow employees who are more comfortable with the Spanish language to complete that version of the form. Only employers in Puerto Rico are permitted to use the Spanish version of Form I-9.

Section 2: Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification – Within three business days of beginning employment, the employee must present an original document or documents that show his or her identity and employment authorization to the company. The employee should have been provided a list of acceptable documents when he or she completed Section 1. That list is divided into three sections: List A (documents that verify both identity and work authorization); List B ( documents that establish identity only); and List C (documents that establish employment authorization only). The employee must present either one document from List A. Alternatively, the employee may instead choose to present one document from List B and one document from List C. It is the employee’s choice which document(s) to present. The employer is not permitted to specify which document(s) it wants the individual to provide.

Once the employee presents the original documents to individual responsible for collecting and maintain I-9s, that individual will examine each original document(s) to determine if it appears to be reasonably genuine and relate to the person presenting it. The person who examines the documents will then complete Section 2 of Form I-9.

For employees who provide work authorization documents that have expiration dates, the employer must develop a system to keep track of those expiration dates so that they can ask those employees to reverify their continued work eligibility.

Section 3: Reverification and Rehires – Employees who are rehired within three years of the date of the initial completion of his or her previous Form I-9 may either complete a new Form I-9 or the company may be able to rely on the previously completed Form I-9 if that form indicates the individual is still eligible to work in the United States. In that circumstance, you may simply update the previous Form I-9 by completing Block B in Section 3 with the date of rehire.

If an employee’s work authorization has expired, you must complete Block C of Section 3 or use page 2 of a new form if Section 3 has already been used. List B documents that have expired do not have to be reverified and employers are not permitted to reverify Permanent Resident Cards that the employee has presented for work authorization purposes.

Employers must retain Form I-9 for as long as the individual is employed. Once the individual’s employment has ended, the employer must retain the form for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment has terminated, whichever is later.

Employers should periodically review their collected Forms I-9 to make sure they have been properly completed. The USCIS provides some guidance on how to make corrections to improperly completed Forms I-9:

The current Form I-9 along with a comprehensive Handbook for Employers may be downloaded from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) at

Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here for currently scheduled programs:

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