Important Things to Know about the I-9 Form

Apr 11, 2017
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The gradually expanding economy has more companies hiring more people this year (2017). With each new employee brought on board, a company is obligated to complete the I-9 form and keep it with employee records for a specified amount of time. Failure to comply with I-9 rules could land a company in trouble for not verifying a worker’s eligibility for employment in the U.S.

The I-9 form is pretty standard fare for American employers. Still, you may have some questions about the form and its use. Below is a selection of the most important things that companies need to know about the I-9 form.

Its Purpose

The point of the I-9 forms is to verify the identity of new hires as well as their legal eligibility to work in this country. On its website, the IRS explains the purpose of the form as follows:

“Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States.”

Employer Responsibilities

Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that new hires complete the I-9 form regardless of whether they handle payroll in-house or subcontract to a payroll solutions provider, such as Dallas-based BenefitMall. However, employers do not have to file a completed I-9 forms to any particular agency. Rather, they must retain the forms for either three years following the date of hire or one year following employee termination, whichever is later.

Employee Responsibilities

New hires are required to furnish employers with sufficient documentation confirming their identities and work eligibility. Natural born and naturalized citizens can usually get away with something as simple as a driver’s license with a photo ID. All others will have to choose from a list of acceptable documents.

Government Authority

Various authorized government officials have the legal right to inspect I-9 forms and their accompanying documentation on demand. The law requires companies to make completed forms and documents available for inspection upon request.

Common I-9 Form Mistakes

BenefitMall reminds employers to be completely familiar with the I-9 form and its implications. They also encourage employers and their HR departments to carefully scrutinize forms to make sure they are completed correctly. Again, this applies whether payroll is done in-house or not.

Below are some of the most common mistakes employers make with I-9 forms:

  • Entering a date in section 2 of the I-9 form that does not match payroll records;
  • Failing to complete section 2 within three business days of the start of employment;
  • Failure to record relevant information about documents used to verify identity and eligibility; and
  • Failure of the employer or an authorized representative to sign the I-9 form.

Tips for Completing the Form

Completing and retaining I-9 forms is not complicated by any stretch of the imagination. Most employers will complete and file their forms without ever hearing from government agencies. Still, federal and state agencies do have the authority to inspect records at any time. Therefore, here are a few tips for completing forms:

  • Only use standard blue or black ink
  • Avoid using staples or hole punchers on documents
  • Ensure all information on forms is legible
  • Make sure any photocopies are equally legible
  • All sections should be completed – do not skip anything
  • Always use the most recent version of the form.

The I-9 form is part of hiring regardless of how payroll is processed. Some payroll processing companies can provide limited assistance to employers with these forms, but employers are ultimately responsible for verifying the identities and work eligibility of all new hires.

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