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What Is an I-9 Form? Your Complete Guide

Your Complete Guide to the Form I-9

I-9 Form

Immigrants in the United States are allowed to enjoy many of the same privileges as citizens of the United States, such as working to earn a salary.

In most cases, immigrants need special authorization and verification to be able to work. In addition to your work permit, you and your employer will also need to complete an I-9 form. 

Here’s what you need to know about the I-9 form and how it impacts your employment eligibility in the United States.

I-9 Forms Explained

I-9 forms are overseen by the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security. These forms are necessary for immigrants who intend to work while they’re staying in the United States of America. 

The I-9 form differs from your Employment Authorization Document, also referred to as a work permit, or I-94. The Employment Authorization Document is a document provided by USCIS that states that you’re allowed to work in the United States; an I-94 may also be proof of eligibility to work in the US. Once you have either of those documents and find a job, your employer needs a completed I-9 from you.

The I-9 form is also called the employment eligibility verification form. Immigrants seeking jobs in the United States need to complete an I-9 form with their employer in addition to holding a work permit or I-94 to be able to start employment

Everyone who works in the United States needs to have a valid I-9 form on file with their employer, regardless of their citizenship status.

What Is the Purpose of an I-9 Form?

The I-9 form verifies a person’s eligibility to work in the United States. Both citizens and non-citizens need to have a valid I-9 form to work in the United States. 

It’s easy for employers to complete these forms on behalf of American citizens. The form is slightly different for immigrants, as employers don’t have easy access to identifying information for people who are citizens of other countries.

The I-9 form is used to demonstrate that you are who you say you are and that you’re allowed work in the United States. It’s used in conjunction with your Employment Authorization Document or I-94 to prove your eligibility to work.

Who Has To Complete the I-9 Process?

Technically, Immigration and Customs Enforcement requires everyone to complete an I-9 form, regardless of their citizenship status or country of origin. You and your employer will work together to complete the I-9 form. 

How Long Must an Employer Retain I-9 Documents?

Employers are required to keep a new employee’s I-9 form for at least three years from the first day of employment or for one year after the employee stops working for them, whichever is the longest period. 

I-9 forms and their supporting documents contain private information about the preparer of the documents, which is used during the onboarding process. Employers must safely dispose of these documents by thoroughly destroying them after they no longer need to keep them.

Who Reviews an I-9 Form?

The employer, recruiter, human resources officer, or authorized representative (like a lawyer who works for the company) is responsible for reviewing and verifying the information on an I-9 form. If you work for a small business, your employer is likely the person who reviews your documents.

If an employee is a rehire, the employer must complete the verification process again. If the employer has any reason to believe or suspect that information on the I-9 form is fraudulent or untrue, they can contact an authorized representative of the USCIS.

What Happens If You Don’t Complete an I-9 Form?

You cannot work without a valid I-9 form, and employers cannot hire someone without a valid I-9 form. Employers can be fined and face consequences. If you’re not a citizen of the United States and you knowingly provide false information, you can face consequences, including deportation.

Filing an I-9 Form

The I-9 form isn’t like most USCIS forms because it isn’t used exclusively by USCIS. It’s not specific to immigrants or permanent residents. You don’t need to pay any filing fees or submit the form to any government agencies. 

The form is mostly for your employer’s use, and they’re the ones responsible for retaining the completed form.

Where Can You Find the I-9 Form?

USCIS has all the forms you need on its website. You can complete them digitally or print them and fill them out by hand. 

Always be sure to get your forms directly from the USCIS website. Forms are frequently changed or updated. The only way to know for sure that the version of the form you’re using is the right version is to get the forms from the website, fill them out, and submit them promptly.

You may not need to find the I-9 form yourself. When you’re hired by your employer, they may give you an I-9 form to fill out. You can fill it out when you accept the offer of employment. If you have your supporting documents with you, your employer can make copies and return the originals to you on the same day.

Where Do You File an I-9 Form?

You don’t need to file an I-9 form. You need to complete your portion of the I-9 form and give your employer the partially completed form. They’re responsible for filling out the rest of the form. 

Any U.S. government agency has the right to ask your employer to show the completed I-9 form at any time for any reason, and your employer will have to show it to them. 

What Are the Requirements for Work Authorization?

You’re only responsible for completing section 1 of the I-9 form, titled Employee Information and Attestation. Your employer will fill out everything else. 

This section requires new hires to provide the following information before their start date:

  • Your full name.
  • Any other last names you’ve had (like your name before marriage if your name has changed).
  • Your full current residential address. This should match the address on your official identification cards. It should be the same as the address USCIS has on file for you. If it isn’t, you need to update your address with USCIS immediately.
  • Your date of birth.
  • Check the box that best reflects your current immigration status.
  • Your alien number, USCIS number, passport number, or form I-94 number (use whichever you have).
  • The date that your Employment Authorization Document (work permit) or I-94 expires.
  • Your signature and the date.
  • Your your social security number.
  • Your email address and your phone number .

You should have easy access to all of this information. It will only take you a few minutes to complete your portion of the I-9 form.

What Documents Do You Need To Provide?

After you fill out the section of the form intended for the employee, you need to provide documents from the list of acceptable documents that prove your identity and eligibility to work.

List A documents prove both an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in compliance with federal law. These are the most important types of documents to keep handy. Make sure none have passed their expiration dates.

  • U.S. Passport, ID Card, or U.S. Passport Card;
  • Permanent Resident Card (Green Card);
  • Employment Authorization Document Card; or
  • Foreign Passport (Must Also Include Form I-94/94A Arrival-Departure Record or Form I-551 stamp or Form I-551 printed notation).

Provide at least one A list document. If you have multiple A list documents, allow your employer to make copies of all of them. It’s safer to be thorough. 

If any questions arise or if you lose the original copy of any of these documents, your employer can use the copy as proof that they’ve seen the original documents. 

List B documents prove identity only, and list C documents only prove eligibility to work. These documents must be provided together as a substitute for an A list document. List B and List C documents include your driver’s license, birth certificate, and social security card. 

These are the documents generally used by U.S. citizens who won’t have things like a permanent resident card or a foreign passport. You don’t need to provide these documents.

The Bottom Line

The I-9 form isn’t complicated, and you aren’t responsible for most of the process. It won’t cost you any money, and you don’t need to file it with USCIS. 

Your employer is responsible for completing it and storing it safely for the required period of time. As long as you have a valid employment authorization document and you’ve provided the correct information for your I-9, you won’t encounter any issues attempting to work in the United States.

If you do encounter trouble with your right to work or your employment authorization documents, you may need the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. You can always contact us if you need a detail-oriented immigration lawyer to review your case.


Employment Authorization Document |

USCISForm I-9 | U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Form I-9 Acceptable Documents | USCIS


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