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Form I-9 Compliance and Basics

Form I-9 Compliance and Basics

What is Form I-9?

U.S. employers are required to use the Form I-9 — a key federal document used to verify the identity and eligibility of people hired for employment in the United States. In late 2017, a new form was released with advance drop-down and autofill features. The penalties for incorrectly completing or storing them can be costly.

Completing Form I-9

All new employees must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 on (or before) their first day of employment. Then, within three business days following their start date, they must submit acceptable proof of their identity and eligibility to work in the United States.

As for your end, you must complete Section 2 within those same three business days with the employee’s document(s). If the duration of the job will be fewer than three days, you must complete Section 2 no later than the first day of employment. Section 2 is generally done at the time the employee brings in their identifying documents, as it asks for specific information about these forms of identification. As a reminder, documents must be presented in-person, and the employer representative that reviews them must fully complete Section 2 of the form.

Note: COVID-19 has impacted the in-person inspection requirements. 

I-9 Retention

I-9 files are subject to unique record retention laws. A separate file will help ensure that you retain these forms for as long as necessary and that you can readily discard them after the retention period expires.

Removing an employee’s I-9 from the master folder or binder on an employee’s termination date, and storing it in a separate “terminated employee” I-9 file until the appropriate destroy date, will help you stay organized.

In the event of an audit, it’s imperative that these documents are removed from all other identifying & confidential employee information before review, i.e., separate from an employee’s personnel file.

Regardless of where an employer stores the I-9s, the law requires that the forms are made available upon request by authorized government officers with as little as 3 days’ notice.

Knowing how long to store I-9s comes down to a few different factors. Essentially, they must be retained for as long as the employee is working for you, so for their full length of employment. Then, after an employee has separated employment, the form must be stored for 3 years after the date of hire, or 1 year after termination, whichever date is later.

I-9 Retention Quick Guide
Employee’s Start Date + three years = date A
Employee’s Termination Date + one year = date B
Store their form I-9 until the later of the two dates


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