Why the I-9 Form is so Important

Everyone talks about the I-9 form and how important it is. To help you understand why, we’re going to explain what it is, and why it’s necessary from both a legal and an administrative onboarding perspective.

The I-9 verifies the eligibility of an employee to work legally in the United States. This form is mandatory for employers, regardless of size—even if there is a complete absence of foreign workers within the organization.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), established in 1986, requires all employers to verify employment eligibility for every employee hired. To comply with the IRCA, employers must receive and verify proof of identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. within three days of hire.

Under the IRCA, if an employer fails to verify the identity and employment authorization of an employee, they are in violation of federal immigration law.

Primary Requirements

  1. To comply with the IRCA, the employee must complete section one of the I-9 on the very first day of employment. This can be completed after the employee has accepted the job, but not before.
  2. The employer must review the employee’s original documents and attest under penalty of perjury that the employee provided the documents and they were legitimate. The review must be done by the person signing the I-9, and that person must physically see the employee with the documents.
  3. The employee must provide one document from list “A” or one document from list “B” and one document from list “C.” For example, an employee can provide a passport for list “A,” OR a driver’s license for list “B,” and a social security card or birth certificate for list “C.”
  4. If proper documentation isn't provided within the required time frame, the employee must cease working immediately until all requirements are met and the I-9 form is completed.
  5. It’s important to note that I-9 forms must be kept separate from all other personal documents in a binder or an individual confidential file outside of the employee personnel file.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

As an employer, you could be looking at large fines and penalties if you don’t comply with I-9 requirements.

Penalties can be imposed for hiring unauthorized workers as well as simply committing paperwork violations, even if all employees are authorized to work.

It’s more important than ever for employers to ensure they have proper procedures in place, as fines related to I-9 forms or omissions (also known as paperwork errors) have nearly doubled as of August 1, 2016. Fines now range from $216 to $2,156 per error.

The increase in fines demonstrates the government’s increased efforts to more vigorously enforce federal immigration laws. With the growing number of audits conducted yearly, it’s best to act like you could be audited at any time.  

As an employer, you can’t afford to be complacent in this area.

How to Avoid Legal Fines

Conducting regular audits and training hiring managers can be effective ways to avoid these costly fines. By performing audits on a consistent basis, you can ensure you’re compliant and everyone is using the correct process. With proper training, you can ensure that all personnel involved in the hiring process know and comply with the proper procedures for completing the I-9 form.

When it comes to the I-9 form, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Cover all your bases and ensure that you’re properly handling the I-9 form and process.

Is your organization compliant with immigration regulations?

Sarah Charlier

As a HR Services Supervisor for Oasis, a Paychex® Company, Sarah Charlier engages directly with Presidents, CEOs, and Executive Leadership in organizations to identify and execute strategic human resources initiatives. She serves as a business partner by leading executives and managers through employee relations issues, technical labor law compliance, preparing managers to effectively manage employee performance, and creating and adapting HR processes to best serve the organization.


February 22, 2018

Posted by

Sarah Charlier