I9 Form - Proof of Eligibility

To Work in the US

The I9 Form used in the US is designed to prove a person is eligible to work in the US. For most it is simple form filled out just before being hired for a job.

Employers should be aware that it is their obligation to get these forms filled out properly for each employee and maintain them for all active employees as well as past employees. Here are some tips on filling out the I9 employment eligibility form and maintaining proper records in case of audit.

The I9 Form

When hiring an employee always have them fill out the I-9 form. Use the most recent version. The latest version can downloaded from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services site along with instructions on how to fill out the form. (Here's the most recent I9 Eligibility form as of 2010)

Employer Obligations

An employer must collect and retain the original Form i9 for each employee either for three (3) years after the hire date, or for one (1) year after employment is terminated, whichever is later. All current employees hired after November 6, 1986 must have i9 Forms on file with the employer for the full term of their employment, plus the applicable retention period cited above.

As employer you should always check with your local expert to understand your obligations. Generally here are the things you need to keep in mind when filling out I-9 Forms.

Tips for I9 Compliance

  • Use the Most updated I-9 Form
  • View proof of eligibility documents personally (you are attesting that you view them when you sign the form!)
  • Do not accept expired documents
  • You have 3 days after a person starts to get them to fill in an I-9 Form
  • Set up a system for keeping track of when I-9 eligibility documents used by employees expire. Get new documents when they expire.
  • Keep I-9 forms separate from personnel files. It is easier to audit and you won't spend all day going through everyone's personnel files.
  • Fines are up to $1100 for each incorrect form. There are also civil and criminal penalties for knowingly hiring employees without proper documentation.

I-9 Audit

Finally, if you get audited, call your attorney immediately, even before you let the authorities see your records. It is recommended you do an annual audit. If you don't know how, you can have someone come in and do it for you. Depending on the size of your company and the number of employees, it could cost as little as $300 to $500. Good insurance against a $1100 fine.

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