The I-9: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Whenever your business is hiring new employees it is important to ensure that you have an I-9 form completed and on file in order to avoid penalties or other complications.

Though the I-9 is a one page form that appears easy and straightforward, its completion can be wrought with confusion and mistakes can happen quickly.

In this blog entry, we’re going to examine several common mistakes that employers make while completing I-9 paperwork, as identified by the USCIS. You can view the entire USCIS list here.

Section 1 is to be completed by the employee at the time employment begins (Day 1).  Encourage him or her to double check all information to ensure accuracy and be sure that the employee signs the I-9; without a signature, the attestation is not complete. Then, it’s your turn as the employer to complete Section 2 and, in certain circumstances, Section 3.  Section 2 must be completed by the employer by the 3rd day of employment. By the 1st day of employment if the individual will work 3 or fewer days.  The employer’s role in Section 2 is the establish the identity of the employee as well as to verify the employment eligibility of the employee.

Some of the most common mistakes we have found in the course of the multitude of I-9 audits we have conducted for our clients include:

Mistakes in Section 1:

  • Make sure the employee signs and dates the form.  If not, employer assumes liability for false statements in Section 1.
  • Employer’s role in Section 1 is to review it for completeness – Do Not Ask for Specific Documents to Substantiate Section 1 Information.
  • The last two Certification boxes are often completed incorrectly or skipped:
    • A ____________ = this is the number on the individual’s “Green Card”
    • Alien Authorized to Work (Alien # or Admission #) until __/__/__ = the number on EAD or the I-94 and the expiration date of work permission

Mistakes in Section 2:

  • Asking the employee to complete the I-9 prior to issuing an offer of employment.
  • Employer does not enter acceptable List A document or acceptable List B and List C documents on the I-9.
  • Employer does not ensure documents proffered are actually on LIST A or LIST B and LIST C.
  • Employer overdocuments Section 2, e.g., includes a List A and a List B document in completing the I-9.
  • Employer does not enter the document title, issuing authority, number(s) or expiration date for the documentation presented.
  • Employer does not enter its business title, name or address.
  • Employer does not enter the date employment began (i.e., date of hire).
  • Employer does not sign, date and print name in the Certification.
  • Employer does not complete Section 2 by the third business day after the date the employee began employment, or, if the employee is hired for three business days or less, at the time the employee started employment.

Mistakes in Section 3:

  • Employer fails to maintain a tickler system for employees with time limited work authorization and Section 3 is not completed in a timely fashion.
  • Employer fails to remind employees at least 120 days prior to time limited work authorization document expiration  and the reverification does not occur on the day the work authorization expires.
  • Employer reverifies a List B document or a “Green Card”.
  • Employer does not enter the document title, number or expiration date for the acceptable documentation presented.
  • Employer does not enter the date of rehire, if applicable.
  • Employer does not enter the employee’s new name, if applicable.
  • Employer does not sign or date the Certification.

In addition to the mistakes we’ve covered above, be sure to review the entire I-9 for clarity and legibility, and ensure that all applicable Sections have been completed. Most importantly, retain the I-9 forms in a separate location and keep them available.  Remember, you should have an I-9 form for all current employees hired after 11/6/1986.  For any employees that were hired after that date but have since termed, you must maintain the I-9 for 3 years from the date of hire or 1 year from the date of termination, whichever is later.

I-9 compliance can be confusing and the penalties for non-compliance can be severe. If you’ve got questions about compliance with the I-9 rules and regulations, business immigration in general, or if you’d like assistance creating an immigration strategy for your business or organization, I’d love to talk. Give me a call today and let’s find a solution for your immigration challenges!