Federal law requires every employer hiring an individual for employment in the United States to verify his or her identity and employment authorization through completion of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

2012 saw a record number of Form I-9 audits and enforcement actions. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted more than 3,000 audits in 2012, compared to just 250 in 2007. A number of audits focused on discriminatory employment practices. For example, employers may not, for the purpose of verifying a worker's employment eligibility, request more or different documents, reject reasonably genuine looking documents or specify certain documents based on citizenship status or nationality.

The one-page form appears simple, but comes with a 69-page manual of instructions (http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf). Common I-9 processing errors include:

  1. Incomplete forms (missing signatures, incorrect dates)
  2. Failure to meet the 3-day rule (the Form I-9 must be completed no later than 3 business days after the employee begins work)
  3. Failure to re-verify employees of certain citizenship statue
  4. Failure to obtain the right combination of valid identifying documents
  5. Improper document retention and storage (employers must retain a Form I-9 for the later of one year after the date employment was terminated or three years after the terminated employee began work).

Note that a new two-page Form I-9 will shortly be released, but until that time, employers should continue using the existing one-page Form I-9 currently available on the forms section of http://www.uscis.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers free webinars to explain and demonstrate how to complete a Form I-9 – check out upcoming webinars at http://tinyurl.com/3cwqwto

Wilson Donella halfbody

Donella Wilson

Donella Wilson, CPA, leads GHJ’s Nonprofit Practice and is also President and Chief Philanthropy Officer of GHJ Foundation, GHJ’s vehicle for purposeful and proactive giving to the community. A leader in both the nonprofit and accounting communities, Donella was named a finalist in the 2021 Los…Learn More