What is the Form I-9 and Why is it Important?

Anyone who has either been hired for a job or hired someone for a job knows that the process of getting a new employee on board requires a large amount of paperwork. The I-9 form is one of the most important forms that an employee and employer fill out. To help you understand why the Form I-9 is so important, we’re going to explain what it is, and what employees and employers should know about the form and some common mistakes that employers and employees make.

What is the Form I-9?

The Form I-9 verifies the eligibility of an employee to work legally in the United States. This form is mandatory for employers, regardless of size. This requirement applies to both U.S. citizens and noncitizens.

What Does the Employee Need to Know?

There are three main sections in the Form I-9. Each section has a different set of directions, may require different information, and will require the participation of the employee or employer.

The first section of the Form I-9  gathers important employee information. As an employee, you will need to provide your full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, email address and phone number. Employees must complete section one of the form by the first day of employment. In addition to providing accurate information, employees must also sign the document, attesting that the information provided is true. An employee can face penalties for perjury if any information is incorrect.

The second section on the Form I-9 is the responsibility of the employee and employer. The Form I-9 requires employees to provide the employer with appropriate identification documents as described via the form’s guidelines within three business days of the employee’s first day on the job. The employer thoroughly examines the documentation.

The third section of the Form I-9 is primarily the responsibility of the employer. This section of the form is not always needed. This part can be completed for a change of name, renewal of expiring work authorization, or rehire within three years of the original date on the Form I-9.

What Does the Employer Need to Know?

As an employer, you could be looking at large fines and penalties if you don’t comply with I-9 requirements. There are large penalties 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) can cause large penalties for the organization.

Conducting regular audits and training hiring managers can be effective ways to avoid these costly fines. Penalties vary substantially and are based on a tier system, but can reach as high as almost $20,000. By performing audits on a consistent basis, you can ensure your business is 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.

Common mistakes employers make with Form I-9

Filling out the Form I-9 can be tricky, as there are tiny details employees and employers must adhere to. Below are a few things HR professionals may want to watch out for as they complete these documents:

  • Allowing untrained staff to administer I-9s.
  • Not conducting an internal I-9 audit.
  • Having untrained staff engage in the I-9 audit.
  • Not supervising new employees filling out Section 1, which causes many Section 1 mistakes.
  • Accepting unacceptable documents.
  • Accepting fraudulent documents, such as fake lawful permanent resident or Social Security cards.
  • Not recording the document title, issuing authority and expiration date or not recording the information correctly.
  • Not making copies of I-9s because the employer is relying on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and not on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • Making corrections without initializing and dating them
  • List via SHRM

When it comes to the Form I-9, it is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you have a proper process in place.

Disclaimer: Please seek legal assistance or assistance from state, federal, or international governmental resources to make sure your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location.

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