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Getting the I-9 Form Right

Integrity Staffing & Solutions

Errors in your I-9 forms can result in potentially substantial fines for your organization.  Every organization should have a sound process for in place for completing, retaining, and purging its I-9 forms.  Here are some things you can do to be sure your company’s I-9s are properly completed and retained.

The most important element in ensuring your I-9s are correct is to properly train the staff responsible for verifying the employment eligibility of your new hires.  Properly trained staff will go a long way towards preventing the errors that can plague the verification process.  Periodic refresher training is also recommended to correct bad habits that may have developed or improper understanding of the requirements of the law or your organization’s internal process.

Other elements of an effective process include:

  • A real time review of the I-9 form itself and the documents that are being presented to prove identity and employment eligibility.  The company representative should review the documents and Section 1 of the I-9 form before completing Section 2 and signing the form.  Under no circumstances, should Section 2 be completed and signed by anyone other than the employee who reviewed the new hire’s document(s).
  • If your organization keeps copies of the documentation presented during the verification process, make copies at the time the documents are presented.  If your company has made the decision to keep copies of the documents presented during the employment eligibility verification process (the law does not require copies be retained), you must retain copies of the verification documents for all your new hires.
  • Have a secondary review of the I-9 form and the copies of the documents at the time the new hire’s data is entered into the HRIS system.  Errors can generally be corrected more easily if they are discovered within a day or two of the employee’s hire date.
  • Establish an electronic or manual system for tracking recertification dates for new hires who have employment authorizations that expire.  The system should provide a means of notifying the employee at least 90 days prior to the expiration of his/her employment authorization that he/she will have to present new authorization for employment on or before the expiration of his/her existing employment authorization date.
  • Consider conducting a self-audit of your company’s I-9 forms on a yearly or every-other-year basis.  A self-audit gives you the opportunity to identify and correct errors on your own.  If you choose to conduct a self-audit, use a log to track missing I-9s and I-9s with errors.  When correcting I-9s, attach a memo to the I-9 explaining how the error was found and what was done to correct the error.
  • Establish a process for purging I-9s as soon as the retention requirement has passed.  Retaining I-9s longer than legally required puts your company at risk.  If you are subject to an outside audit, any I-9s you have in your records may be audited (and subject to fines if they have been improperly completed).

Employers can refer to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website for questions they have regarding the employment eligibility verification requirements.  Follow the link to http://www.uscis.gov/ for more information.