Q: What Is an I-9 Form? How Do I Fill It Out?

When you hire a new employee, they need to fill out an I-9 in order for you to run payroll.

An I-9 is a form from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services agency that confirms the employee’s identity and right to work in the United States.

Along with the form, your new hire must show proof that confirms their identity and confirms that they can legally work in the US. Read to learn how to properly fill out this form, and make sure you know how to avoid common I-9 mistakes.

What does the I-9 form include?

The form includes three sections: 

What’s required in Section 1 of the I-9 form?

Employee requirements 

In this section, the employee fills out:

  • Full legal name
  • Current address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number, if applicable
  • Citizenship or immigration status
  • If applicable:
  • Email address (this is not required)
  • Telephone number (this is not required)
  • Date
  • Signature
  • The Preparer and/or Translator Certification
    • If a translator or preparer has not helped the employee fill out the form, the employee should check the box that indicates “I did not use a preparer or translator”
    • If a translator or preparer has helped the employee fill out the form, the box that indicates “A preparer and/or translator assisted the employee in completing Section 1” should be checked. 
    • If a translator or preparer helps the employee to fill out the form, the translator/preparer must also provide their name, address, signature, and date. (Be sure the dates entered by the employee and the dates entered by the preparer/translator match.)  If more than one person has helped the employee fill out the I-9, there is a supplemental form, Form I-9 Supplement, Section 1 Preparer and/or Translator Certification that may be used to document and certify each person who has assisted the employee in this task. 

Employer requirements 

The employer should review Section 1 thoroughly to ensure all the applicable form fields have been adequately completed by the employee.

What’s required in Section 2 of the I-9 form?

Employee requirements 

The employee must present documentation that demonstrates proof identification to the employer. 

What documents count as proof of identification?

The employee is required to present:

Either one document from this list (List A):

  • U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card
  • Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card
  • Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document Card
  • Foreign passport with Form I-94 or Form I-94A with Arrival-Departure Record, and containing an endorsement to work
  • Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A
  • Foreign passport containing a Form I-551 stamp or Form I-551 printed notation

Or, if presenting a document from List A is not possible, the employee may present one document from List B plus one document from List C. Find the complete list of acceptable documentation here

List B

  • U.S. driver’s license
  • Canadian driver’s license
  • ID card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities (this must include a photograph, name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color and address
  • School ID card with a photograph
  • Voter registration card
  • U.S.military card or draft record
  • Military dependent’s ID card
  • U.S.Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) card
  • Native American tribal document

List C

  • U.S. Social Security Card (must be unrestricted)
  • Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Form FS-545, Certification of Birth Abroad (issued by U.S.)
  • Form DS-1350, Certification of Report of Birth (issued by U.S.)
  • Original or certified birth certificate 
  • Native American tribal document
  • Form I-197, U.S. Citizen ID Card
  • Form I-179, ID card for US Resident Citizen

Have any employee requirements changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Yes. 

On May 1, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that employers could accept expired documents from new hires—but only to satisfy identification verification for documents in List B (documents from List A and List C could not be expired). These expired List B documents should only be accepted by employers if they expired after February 29, 2020. These documents remain acceptable until 90 days after the employee has been hired; after that, renewed documents must be presented by the employee. 

Employer requirements 

This is a critical part of the process because once the employee starts work, you, the employer, are required to sign Section 2 of the I-9 form within three business days

In this section you must verify your employee’s identification by examining the identification documentation and filling out Section 2 with the following information: 

  • The employee’s full name (last name, first name, and middle initial)
  • The employee’s citizenship or immigration status number. To find this number, look at Section 1 under “I attest, under the penalty of perjury, that I am (check one of the following boxes):” and find the box the employee checked; this box will correspond with a number. Enter that number in this field.

Examine the identification documents carefully and in the appropriate columns, and enter the:

  • Document title
  • Issuing authority
  • Document number
  • Expiration date (if applicable)

You’re almost done! 

In the last part of Section 2, enter:

  • The date the employee began work
  • Your signature
  • The date you examined the identification documents and filled out this form
  • Your title
  • Your name (last name, first name)
  • The name of your business
  • The address of your business (if your business has multiple sites, use the most appropriate address that identifies your business location)

Have employer requirements changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Yes. 

In typical  times, the employer (or an authorized representative) must physically examine the employee’s identification documents. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have enabled temporary flexibility to allow employers who employ a teleworkforce to inspect the identification documents remotely. This will remain the policy through September 17, 2020; check here for updates.

What’s required in Section 3 of the I-9 form?

Section 3 of the I-9 form should only be completed if:

  • An employee’s employment authorization must be reverified because the documents have expired or, 
  • An employee has been rehired within three years of leaving the company, or
  • An employee has changed their name (this is optional)

To determine whether and when your employee’s employment authorization will expire, look in Section 1 for the date of employment authorization expiration and in Section 2 for the date the employment authorization documents expire. You must reverify and update the I-9 form before the earlier of these two dates

Employee requirements

Whether the employee has been rehired or must be reverified due to expired documentation, the employee will be required to present one document from List A or one document from List C.

Employer requirements 

Always remind your employees—at least 90 days before the required reverification date—that they will need to provide updated List A or List C documentation. 

To complete Section 3 examine the new documents presented by the employee and ensure they are authentic and are up-to-date. Then fill out Section 3 of the form with the following information:

  • Document title
  • Document number
  • Document expiration date (if applicable) or Date of rehire (if applicable) 
  • Your signature
  • Date
  • Print Your Name

If Section 3 of the form has already been filled out, use a new form, complete Section 3 with the above information and attach it to the old form. 

Are there any costs for an I-9 form?

Nope!

Pro tip: You don’t need to fill this out for a volunteer or a contractor.

Still not sure what other forms you need to onboard employees? Gusto streamlines the full onboarding process, so you make sure your employees and your business are compliant and ready to go.

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