Since 1986, employers have been required to verify the identity and eligibility to work for everyone they hire, whether these individuals are U.S. citizens or noncitizens. The tool for doing this is the employment eligibility verification form, or I-9 form.
I-9 Requirements Must Be Met
Employees must present original documents, with the exception of a certified copy of a birth certificate. An employee who fails to produce the required document (or a receipt for a replacement document ) within three business days can be terminated. An employee who shows a receipt has 90 days to present the original documents.
Employers must keep the completed forms (electronically, on microfilm or on paper) as long as the person is employed. Employers must also retain a Form I-9 for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later.
Many states also have their own employment verification laws, with different requirements.
New Form Now Available
Employers have until May 7, 2013, to begin using a revised version of Form I-9.
The new form contains several revisions designed to minimize errors in form completion, adds data fields, improves the form’s instructions, revises the layout and expands the form from one to two pages. It clarifies that the worker must complete Section 1 on the first day of work and the employer must complete Section 2 by the fourth day of work.
Acceptable I-9 Documents
Employees can present documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility:
Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
Temporary Resident Card (I-688)
Employment Authorization Document (I-766, I-688A or I-688B)
Foreign Passport with temporary I-551 stamp
For those authorized to work only for a specific employer, foreign passport with Form I-97 authorizing employment with this employer.
Additional I-9 Documents
Alternatively, employees can present two documents, one that establishes identity and another that establishes employment eligibility.
Identity documents include a state driver’s license, state ID card, Native American tribal document, Canadian driver’s license or ID card with a photograph, school ID card with a photograph, voter’s registration card, U.S. military card or draft record, or military dependent’s ID card.
Acceptable employment eligibility documents include a Social Security account number card (without employment restrictions), an original or certified copy of a birth certificate with an official seal issued by a state or local government agency, certification of birth abroad, U.S. citizen ID card, Native American tribal document, or Form I-94 authorizing employment with this employer.
Re-verification Needed by Some
The I-9 form of a U.S. citizen is valid continuously unless there is a break of more than one year of employment. Employees on student (F-1), specialty occupation (H-1B) or exchange visitor (J-1) visas must have their I-9s re-verified with a new work authorization permit each time their visas expire.
I-9 Cannot Be Used to Discriminate
Most U.S. citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, asylum seekers or refugees who are legally allowed to work in the United States cannot be discriminated against on the basis of national origin or citizenship status, as revealed in an I-9.
Call an Immigration or Employment Lawyer
The law surrounding the use of I-9 forms to verify identity and eligibility of workers can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more complete, specific information about your case, contact an immigration or employment lawyer.