Studies have shown that organizations often have errors on more than half of their I-9 forms (formally known as Form I-9). This can lead to steep penalties should a workplace compliance audit arise. To help avoid errors on the I-9 forms, nothing is better than a thorough review immediately after the form is filled out. Always be sure the information is clear and legible. Check all applicable fields for completion. Often it is forgotten that the new employee must complete Section 1 on or before the first day of work and Section 2 must be completed by the employer within three days of the start date. Along with these two common mistakes there are many others.
Some of the top I-9 mistakes are as follows:
• Employee does not enter name, other names used (e.g., maiden name), address or date of birth.
• Employee fails to sign and date the form.
• Employee doesn’t check the box indicating status (e.g., U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident), or the employee checks multiple boxes.
• The translator or preparer doesn’t complete the preparer box.
• Employer fails to enter acceptable documents on the form, including the document number and title, issuing agency, and expiration date.
• Employer demands certain documents (e.g., social security card and/or birth certificate).
• Employer does not enter acceptable List A document or acceptable List B and List C documents on the form.
• The date entered in Section 2 (the date the employee began employment) does not match the date in payroll records.
• The employer representative does not sign, date, and print his or her name on the certification.
In the last five years there has been a 600% increase in I-9 random and targeted audits. This is even more of a reason for I-9 completion to be taken seriously. In addition to errors that can be made during completion of the form, there are also guidelines that must be met regarding I-9 retention.
Form I-9’s must be retained for the entire length of time the individual works for the employer. After the employee is terminated it is then up to the employer how long the I-9 is retained—either three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment is terminated, whichever is later. I-9 forms may be retained either on paper or electronically. However, if retained electronically, the employer must be able to produce a hard paper copy for an auditing agency.
In addition, while completing the I-9 it is important that the employer does not treat employees differently based on nationality. Employers may not request certain documents from Lists A, B and C – it is the employee’s choice which documents to provide. For example, employers may not require applicants who appear “foreign” to produce green cards. The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits the use of unfair practices during the I-9 process. Employer’s may not request more or different documents than are required to establish a worker’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States and may not reject documents that appear to be reasonably genuine.
If corrections need to be made to an I-9, correction fluid should never be used. Drawing a line through the mistake, entering the correct information, then initialing and dating the correction, is the proper procedure. To correct multiple errors in a section, the section may be redone on a new I-9 and attached to the old form. A note should be in included in the employee file explaining the reason for the change.
For more information regarding the proper completion of the Form I-9 you may visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website at http://www.uscis.gov/ to download the Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form). This document will assist you with whatever questions that you may have regarding the completion of the Form I-9.
For additional questions or to obtain a copy of the handbook for employers, you may also contact us at www.newfocushr.com.
Written By: Kristen Shingleton Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP
President, New Focus HR LLC