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Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification

Form I-9 is used by employers to verify and document that each new employee hired after November 6, 1986, is authorized to work in the United States. An employer must complete an I-9 for every new hire (U.S. citizen or non-citizen) after that date. Although I-9 forms are not required to be filed with the government, employers must retain them, along with supporting documents, for a certain period of time.

Form I-9 contains three sections. Part I is to be completed by the employee, who must also present evidence (from a list of acceptable documents) to prove his/her identity and employment eligibility. Part II is to be completed by the employer after reviewing and verifying the documents presented. Part III is for updates and re-verification, if necessary.

Two government agencies are primarily responsible for overseeing matters related to I-9: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They both belong to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

USCIS published an I-9 Handbook for Employers (Rev. 06/01/2011), with detailed instructions on how to complete form I-9 and answers to many frequently asked questions. We highly recommend it to each employer and employee who is involved in the I-9 process. USCIS' I-9 Central is the official source for I-9 related information, including updates to the handbook.

There is no cost to complete a Form I-9, and the process is straight forward for most employers/employees to handle on their own. However, certain companies, especially large corporations with many new hires, may choose to work with a third-party business to streamline their I-9 process. I-9 compliance is important to every employer, as failure to comply with I9 requirements may result in civil fines, or in some cases, criminal penalties.

Note that another employment verification system, called E-Verify, is different from I-9. E-Verify is an internet-based system that allows an employer to compare an employee's I-9 information with records stored in the Social Security Administration database, as well as the Department of Homeland Security's various immigration databases. E-Verify is voluntary for most employers, but I-9 is mandatory for everyone.