An I-9 form, also known as an employment eligibility verification form, is a crucial legal document that confirms an individual’s right to work in the United States.
The employer and employee must complete sections of the form accurately. To complete the form successfully, the employee must furnish specific documents, and the employer must verify them.
The I-9 form is mandatory for all new employees and certifies their authorization to work in the United States. The employee must produce certain documents to establish their identity and eligibility to work in the US, which the employer must examine before signing the I-9 form.
What To Consider
Timely filing: Employers must complete it within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment.
Re-Verification: If an employee’s work authorization is temporary or set to expire, the employer must re-verify their employment authorization.
Remote employees: Employers can remotely verify the work eligibility of remote employees by examining identity and work eligibility documents via video conferencing, fax, or email and filling out the employer section.
Retain copies: Employers must retain a completed Form I-9 for each employee for at least three years after the employee’s hire date or one year after the employee’s termination, whichever is later.
Starting November 1, 2023, the only accepted version of the Form I-9 will be the updated 2023 edition. 
The revised document underwent significant changes, reducing its length from 15 to 8 pages. It now features clear definitions for critical participants in the Form I-9 process, streamlining their respective responsibilities. Instructions for a new checkbox to signify remote examination of Form I-9 documents were introduced, while the abbreviation charts were removed and relocated to the M-274 for reference. 
Required Documents for an I-9 Form
Employees must provide one document proving their identity and work eligibility. Alternatively, they can provide two documents, one proving their identity and another proving their work eligibility.
List A contains documents that prove someone’s identity and work eligibility, such as:
- A US passport or passport card
- A permanent resident card or form I-551 (alien registration receipt card)
- Form I-766 (employment authorization document) containing a photo
- A foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp
If an employee doesn’t have any of these documents, they can provide a document from List B and a document from List C on an I-9 form.
List B contains documents that prove someone’s identity and includes documents such as:
- A driver’s license
- A school ID card
- A voter’s registration card
- A US military or military-dependent card
An employee under 18 who doesn’t have a photo ID may be able to use doctor or school records as an alternate form of identification.
List C contains documents that prove someone’s authorization to work in the US, some of which include:
- A social security card
- An original copy of a birth certificate
- A US Citizen ID card (form I-197)
- An employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security
- A Native American tribal document
For additional information about the documents employees must provide, see the form I-9 acceptable documents list.
How to Fill Out an I-9 Form
Step 1 – Obtain the Employee’s Information
Present the I-9 form and the corresponding instructions to your new employee before they begin work. Allow them time to assemble their documents, and have them fill out all their information in the appropriate employee sections.
Step 2 – Verify the Employee’s Documents
Verify the employee’s documents by confirming they look genuine and not fabricated. You can also confirm that the documents actually relate to the employee rather than someone else.
Once you verify the employee’s documents, you can complete the remaining employer sections, like adding your signature and the name of the hiring organization.
Step 3 – Retain the I-9 Form
The employer should retain the I-9 form for their records once the employer and employee have completed and signed it.
The employer must keep an employee’s I-9 form on file for at least three years after the date of hire or one year after the employee’s termination if they worked for more than two years.
IMPORTANT: Retaining Employees' Documents
An employer can’t keep an employee’s original documents. However, they can make photocopies and keep these copies on file.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Employers who fail to comply with I-9 rules may face penalties. These penalties can be triggered by:
- knowingly hiring unauthorized workers,
- failing to complete Form I-9, participating in document fraud,
- failing to produce documents for inspection.
Penalties can increase with subsequent violations. However, technical violations are not penalized immediately, and employers are given ten (10) business days to correct any errors. Good faith compliance can be used as a defense against penalties, provided that the employer can demonstrate it.
I-9 Form Sample
View a sample of an I-9 form and download it as a PDF so you can start verifying your new employees’ identities and work authorization:
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Needs To Complete Form I-9?
All US employers must properly complete Form I-9 for every individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens.
Can Employers Use Electronic Form I-9s?
Yes, Form I-9 may be generated, signed, and retained electronically in compliance with Department of Homeland Security regulations. Both employers and employees will still need to print the completed sections of the form to sign them manually unless the employer chooses to upload the form to an electronic signature solution that complies with these regulations to have all parties sign electronically.
What Happens if an Employer Fails To Complete Form I-9?
Employers who fail to comply with Form I-9 requirements may be subject to civil monetary penalties, criminal penalties, or debarment from government contracts.
Can an Employee Work While Their Form I-9 is Being Processed?
Yes, an employee can start working while their Form I-9 is being processed as long as they have completed Section 1 and have presented their employer with acceptable documents as evidence of identity and employment authorization.
Can an Employer Ask For Additional Documents Beyond What is Required on Form I-9?
No, an employer cannot ask for additional or specific documents beyond what is required on Form I-9. The employee can choose which documents they will present as long as they are on the List of Acceptable Documents. Doing so may constitute discrimination and may lead to penalties.