Form I-9 Question & Answer
Question & Answer article on I-9 Forms
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 11/1/2006
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE WITH FORMS I-9 AFTER THEY ARE COMPLETED?
Unlike tax forms, for example, I-9 forms are not filed with the U.S. government. The requirement is for employers to maintain I-9 records in their own files for 3 years after the date of hire or 1 year after the date the employee’s employment is terminated, whichever is later. This means that Form I-9 needs to be retained for all current employees, as well as terminated employees whose records remain within the retention period.
WHAT IS AN EMPLOYEE’S RESPONSIBILITY REGARDING FORM I-9?
A new employee must complete Section 1 of a Form I-9 no later than close of business on his/her first day of work. The employee’s signature holds him/her responsible for the accuracy of the information provided. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the employee completes Section 1 in full. No documentation from the employee is required to substantiate Section 1 information provided by the employee.
WHAT IS AN EMPLOYER’S RESPONSIBILITY REGARDING FORM I-9?
The employer is responsible ensuring completion of the entire form. No later than close of business on the employee’s third day of employment services, the employer must complete section 2 of the Form I-9. The employer must review documentation presented by the employee and record document information of the form. Proper documentation establishes both that the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. and that the employee who presents the employment authorization document is the person to whom it was issued. The employer should supply to the employee the official list of acceptable documents for establishing identity and work eligibility. The employer may accept any List A document, establishing both identity and work eligibility, or combination of a List B document (establishing identity) and List C document (establishing work eligibility), that the employee chooses from the list to present (the documentation presented is not required to substantiate information provided in Section 1). The employer must examine the document(s) and accept them if they reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee who presents them. Requesting more or different documentation than the minimum necessary to meet this requirement may constitute an unfair immigration-related employment practice. If the documentation presented by an employee does not reasonably appear to be genuine or relate to the employee who presents them, employers must refuse acceptance and ask for other documentation from the list of acceptable documents that meets the requirements. An employer should not continue to employ an employee who cannot present documentation that meets the requirements.
WHAT IS AN EMPLOYERS RESPONSIBILITY FOR VERIFYING THE GENUINENESS OF DOCUMENTS?
Employers are not required to be document experts. In reviewing the genuineness of the documents presented by employees, employers are held to a reasonableness standard. Since no employer which is not participating in one of the employment verification programs has access to receive confirmation of information contained in a document presented by an employee to demonstrate employment eligibility, it may happen that an employer will accept a document that is not in fact genuine — or is genuine but does not belong to the person who presented it. Such an employer will not be held responsible if the document reasonably appeared to be genuine or to relate to the person presenting it. An employer who has questions about document fraud or identify theft can contact the nearest Immigration field office for assistance.
WHAT SHOULD A COMPANY DO UPON DISCOVERING UNAUTHORIZED EMPLOYEES?
It occasionally happens that an employer learns that an employee whose documentation appeared to be in order for Form I-9 purposes is not actually authorized to work. In such case, the employer should question the employee and provide another opportunity for review of proper Form I-9 documentation. If the employee is unable under such circumstances to provide satisfactory documentation, employment should be discontinued (alien employees who question the employer’s determination may be referred to an Immigration field office for assistance).
WHAT SHOULD A COMPANY DO UPON DISCOVERING FALSE DOCUMENTATION?
False documentation includes documents that are counterfeit or those that belong to someone other than the employee who presented them. It occasionally happens that an employee who initially presented false documentation to gain employment subsequently obtains proper work authorization and presents documentation of this work authorization. In such a case, U.S. immigration law does not require the employer to terminate the employee’s services. However, an employer’s personnel policies regarding provision of false information to the employer may apply. The employer should correct the relevant information on the Form I-9.
CAN A COMPANY ACCEPT PHOTOCOPIES OF DOCUMENTS?
There are two separate and unrelated photocopy issues in the employment eligibility verification process. First is whether an employer may accept photocopies of identity or employment eligibility documents to fulfill I-9 requirements. The answer is that only original documents (not necessarily the first document of its kind ever issued to the employee, but an actual document issued by the issuing authority) are satisfactory, with the single exception of a certified photocopy of a birth certificate. Second is whether the employer may or must attach photocopies of documentation submitted to satisfy Form I-9 requirements to the employee’s Form I-9. The answer is that this is permissible, but not required. Where this practice is undertaken by an employer, it must be consistently applied to every employee, without regard to citizenship or national origin.
WHAT IS A “GREEN” CARD?
The terms Resident Alien Card, Permanent Resident Card, Alien Registration Receipt Card, and Form I-551 all refer to documentation issued to an alien who has been granted permanent residence in the U.S. Once granted, this status is permanent. However, the document that an alien carries as proof of this status may expire. Starting with the “pink” version of the Resident Alien Card (the “white” version does not bear an expiration date), and including the new technology Permanent Resident Cards, these documents are valid for either two years (conditional residents) or ten years (permanent residents). When these cards expire, the alien cardholders must obtain new cards. An expired card cannot be used to satisfy Form I-9 requirements for new employment. Expiration dates do not affect current employment, since employers are neither required nor permitted to re-verify the employment authorization of aliens who have presented one of these cards to satisfy I-9 requirements (this is true for conditional residents as well as permanent residents). Note: Even if unexpired, “green cards” must appear genuine and establish identity of the cardholder.
HOW LONG MUST I-9 DOCUMENTATION BE KEPT?
All of an employer’s current employees (unless exempt) must have Forms I-9 on file. A retention date can only be determined at the time an employee is terminated. It is determined by calculating and comparing two dates. To calculate date A, the employer should add three years to whichever of the two dates is later in time is the date until which that employee’s form I-9 must remain in the employer’s employment eligibility verification files.
WHAT ARE THE I-9 REQUIREMENTS OF NEW OWNERS OF EXISTING BUSINESSES?
In a case where a new owner of a business is a successor in interest, having acquired an existing business, the new employer may keep the acquired employer’s I-9 records rather than complete new Forms I-9 on employees who were also employees of the acquired employer. However, since the new employer would be responsible for any errors, omissions or deficiencies in the acquired records, they may choose to protect themselves by having a new Form I-9 completed for each acquired non-exempt employee and attached to that employee’s original Form I-9.
HOW SHOULD A COMPANY HANDLE REMOTE HIRES?
It is not unusual for a U.S. employer to hire a new employee who doesn’t physically come to that employer’s offices to complete paperwork. In such cases, employers may designate agents to carry out their I-9 responsibilities. Agents may include notaries public, accountant, attorneys, personnel officers, foremen, etc. An employer should choose an agent cautiously, since it will be held responsible for the actions of that agent. Note: Employers should not carry out I-9 responsibilities by means of documents faxed by a new employee or through identifying numbers appearing on acceptable documents. The employer must review original documents. Likewise, Forms I-9 should not be mailed to a new employee to complete Section 2 himself or herself.
WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES FOR USING THIRD PART SERVICE PROVIDERS?
Some business entities contract with professional employer organizations (PEOs) to handle the personnel and benefits aspects of the business. This may include completion and retention of Forms I-9. Where the business entity and the PEO are “co employers,” one Form I-9 need be completed between the co-employers for each employee who was simultaneously hired by the co-employers. A business entity and PEO will be deemed a “co-employer” if, among other things, an employer/employee relationship is said to exist between the business entity and PEO on the one hand, and the individual on the other, even though the employee is only performing one set of services for both co-employers. Therefore, the authority to hire or terminate employment would have to be in the hands of both the business entity and the PEO. Since both entities are employing the individual, however, both entities remain equally responsible for meeting the Form I-9 requirements and equally liable for any failures to meet those requirements. Accordingly, the employer is fully responsible for errors, omissions, and deficiencies in the PEO’s processing.
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