The I-9 Form

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, all employers are required to verify the identity and the eligibility to work in the United States of all employees hired after November 6, 1986, using the Immigration and Naturalization Service Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification Form." Once completed, the form is not sent to the government, but you must keep it in your files in case an INS inspector ever wants to see it.

Provided the employee has the right documents, completing the form shouldn't take more than a minute or two. The form must be completed on the day of hire, or within three days of hire.

Which documents will suffice? The most common documents that employees will present are:

Can other documents can be accepted? Some documents will fulfill both requirements of the I-9 form:

Some documents will verify only identity (driver's license or state I.D. card, school photo I.D., voter's registration card, U.S. military card or draft record, military dependent's I.D. card, Native American tribal documents, U.S. Coast Guard or Merchant Marine card, or Canadian driver's license; those under 18 can also use a school record or report card, medical record, or day care or nursery school record).

Other documents will only verify eligibility to work (Social Security card (other than one that states "not valid for employment purposes"), birth certificate, certification of birth abroad, Native American tribal documents, U.S. Citizen ID Card INS Form I-197, U.S. resident citizen ID Card INS Form I-179, or an unexpired INS employment authorization document).

What if the employee doesn't have the necessary documents? If a new employee is unable to produce the required documents within three business days of hiring, the employee must present:

This procedure is not applicable to an alien who indicates that he or she does not have work authorization at the time of hiring.

Where do I keep I-9s and for how long? After you've completed the form, just be sure to retain it for three years from the date of hire or one year after termination. You don't have to keep copies of the documents the new employee showed you, though we recommend that you do. If you keep copies of those documents, they must be kept with the Form I-9s.

State employment agency certification. Referrals from state employment agencies may have certificates that fulfill the I-9 requirements. If you have a state employment agency referral who has a certification, you have to retain that certification instead of the I-9.