With so many regulations affecting Form I-9 compliance, it’s extremely important to have strategies in place for handling them, from before a candidate is hired to the occasional audit, to after an employee leaves. Handling these forms requires knowledge of the law, careful consideration of what level of involvement you’ll have, and a solid plan of action. Will you need to make corrections on these forms? How will you track and manage them? And if an audit were to occur, how would you prepare for it? These are all questions that Human Resources departments should know the answers to, so they can be prepared to make informed decisions.
Take a look below for suggestions on how best to manage Form I-9 compliance.
Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure that each individual they hire completes a Form I-9 properly. First and foremost, employers must use the most current version of the form, which was updated in 2013. Section 1 of the form must be filled out no later than the first day of employment, and the employer must fill out Section 2, using the employee’s documents, no later than the third day of employment. If an employee’s work authorization expires or they are rehired, Section 3 must be completed.
Errors are often made by both employers and employees, and they can range from forgetting to include a name or address to checking more than one box regarding their work eligibility/citizenship. Sometimes the employer fails to complete Section 2 in the appropriate time frame. Other common errors that employees sometimes make are forgetting to sign the form, not completing Section 1 on the first day of employment, and not asking the employee to enter all other names used, such as a maiden name. To avoid these mistakes, you should make it a habit to check I-9 Forms as soon as they are returned to you, while the employee is still present. This will save time in the long run.
When mistakes do occur, employers can make corrections only to Sections 2 and 3, but not to Section 1, which the employees must complete. If a mistake is made to Section 1, you must return the form to the employee to correct. When making corrections, don’t try to hide the fact that a change is being made. Instead, draw a line through the incorrect information, enter the correct information, then initial and date the correction. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security states that if you have a lot of mistakes to correct, you can fill out a new Form I-9 and attach it to the original one. In this case, you should include a note explaining why you had to make the corrections.
Copies of your Form I-9s can be stored electronically, on microfilm or microfiche, or as paper files. They can be held on-site or at an off-site facility and may be stored with other employee records or separate from other records as long as they are secure. They should be stored for as long as the employee works at the company, plus three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later. It’s a good idea to store copies of forms in three separate categories, including employees who have been terminated, employees who will need to be re-verified, and employees who won’t need re-verification.
An inspection may sound scary, but as long as you’ve taken measures to ensure compliance, there’s nothing to worry about. The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices at the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor can inspect forms. If you do have to undergo an inspection, you should receive a Notice of Inspection at least three days before, but records can be obtained through a subpoena or warrant with fewer than three days notice. In an inspection, employers must “retrieve and reproduce electronically stored Forms I-9 and any other documents the officer requests, provide the officer with the necessary hardware and software to inspect electronic documents and provide the officer with any existing electronic summary of the information recorded on the employer’s Forms I-9,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website’s I-9 Central page, which provides all of the additional information you may need.
What are your biggest concerns when it comes to handling Form I-9s? Let us know in the comments section below.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.