If you are an employer or HR manager, the importance of I9 compliance can’t be understated. While the I9 form may seem like a formality and a short one-page document, there are many rules associated with that form which could make things difficult for employers who don’t follow them. Here is what you need to know about I9 rules, how to best comply with the regulations, and the potential consequences for failing to take the I9 seriously.

What is the I9 Form?

The I9 Form is used to verify identity and employment authorization for people hired to work in the United States. All employers in the U.S. must ensure that employees properly complete the Form I9 before they are officially hired. On the form, an employee attests that they are eligible for employment and present documents that prove both their eligibility and their identity.

How I9 Forms Should be Handled by Employers

The I9 may be a simple enough form, but many U.S. employers are not in compliance with I9 regulations because of simple mistakes. Obviously, if a form is missing, this is a problem. Often, people make smaller mistakes such as incorrect dates, incomplete check boxes, and missing signatures. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rules, the I9 must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of work. This means that employees need to produce proper ID, which then often needs to be verified.

ID That Can Be Used for I9 Verification

A new employee that completes an I9 form has two ways to verify their identity and authorization to work. In some cases, one form of identification can verify both. If the employee doesn’t have one of those forms of ID, they will need to produce two alternate forms of ID. The IDs that verify both authorization to work and identity include:

  • Valid U.S. Passport
  • Foreign Passport with I-551 Stamp
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Employment Authorization Card

Forms of ID that only validate identity include:

  • Driver’s License
  • State ID Card
  • Military ID

Forms of ID that only validate authorization to work include:

  • Social Security Card
  • Certification of Report of Birth
  • Certification of Birth Abroad

Potential Consequences for Failure to Comply with I9 Regulations

Not only is complying with I9 regulations important for employers, but failure to comply could be costly. One well-known clothing retailer had to pay fines of more than $1 million after a 2008 audit. Federal agents and auditors often inspect private employers I9 forms to identify possible violations. When this is done, there is a distinction between technical errors and substantive violations. Technical errors include some minor missing information. Substantive violations might include failing to properly verify identity or authorization to work. Possible penalties might include fines and even criminal prosecution in extreme circumstances.

The I9 may be a simple form, but it’s an important part of the hiring process. Following strict guidelines for proper I9 verification will ensure that you remain compliant with the rules and avoid any potential violations or penalties.