How to Complete Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification

Steps to Completing Form I-9 for Employment Verification
Steps to Complete Form I-0 for Employment Verification. Westend61/Getty Images

Form I-9 is used to verify eligibility of employees to work in the U.S. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986) requires employers to verify work eligibility of all employee at hire. Verification includes both identity and work eligibility. The employee attests to the validity of the information by providing documents, and the employer confirms having reviewed the documents. Employers are required to keep the form in case of inspection.

Form I-9 is also the basis for further verification by the employer, using the E-Verify system.

Before You Begin Completing Form I-9

Have copies of Form I-9 on hand before you begin hiring your first employee. Make sure you have the most recent version of Form I-9. The current form, with expiration date 3/31/2016, must be used by employers to verify employment after May 7, 2013.

Copies of Form I-9 (PDF format) are available from the U. S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. This form can be filled in online, then printed out for signatures.

Form I-9 must be completed at the time of hire and you (the employer) must keep all Form I-9's for all employees. If the form is filled out completely and you have accepted documents presented by the employee, you may fire the employee if you find out that the employee misrepresented his or her work eligibility status or if the forms presented by the employee are found not to be valid.

Completing Section 1 - Employee Information and Attestation

Section 1 is completed by the employee. The employee must include name, maiden name, address, and date of birth. The employee should include Social Security Number, but this number is optional unless your company is using the E-Verify system.


The employee then attests to his or her status - one of the following:

citizen of the United States

non-citizen national of the United States

Lawful permanent resident (including Alien #)

Alien authorized to work (including Alien # or Admission #) until (include expiration date, if applicable)

Someone may assist the employee in completing Section 1 of Form I-9. The Preparer and/or Translator Certification section should be completed by the helper. Be sure to print the name and address of the helper.

Completing Section 2: Employer Review and Verification

Section 2 is completed by the employer. You must review the documents necessary to verify both (a) identity and (b) work eligibility of the employee. Note that documents in List A, such as a U.S. passport, verify BOTH identity and work eligibility. Documents in List B verify identity and documents in List C verify work eligibility. You must have one document from EACH of List B and List C if you don't have a document from List A.

Acceptable Documents

A list of acceptable documents is included on the I-9 form. You can find more information about acceptable documents, including examples of documents, in the USCIS Handbook for Employers.

A note about Social Security cards: You cannot accept a laminated Social Security card or a Social Security card which states "not valid for employment purposes." Printouts from the Social Security Administration showing social security information for an employee are not acceptable replacements for a Social Security Card.

Documents presented to you for verification must match the eligibility status attested to by the employee. If the documents presented to you are not consistent with the status attested to by the employee, you cannot accept them. For example, if an employee attests that he or she is a U.S. citizen, but shows you a "green card," you cannot accept the document.

Expiration Dates of Documents

Some documents, like a passport or work authorization, have expiration dates. Documents which have expired are not acceptable for verification. If a document expires in the future you must accept it, but make a note of the expiration date in your employee record keeping system. If a document expires and the employee does not provide a new document showing a future expiration date, that employee is no longer eligible to work in the U.S. If your company is inspected, you may be subject to fines and penalties for continuing to employ this individual.

Original documents only

All documents presented must be originals. Photocopies are not acceptable. If you have a question about whether a document is a copy, look for a stamp or seal from a U.S. government agency or from a state, county, or municipal government entity.
If a document has a different name from the name given by the employee on the I-9, ask questions. Slight spelling variations of names are acceptable as long as the document appears to be genuine and it relates to the person.

After you review the documents and make a reasonable determination that they are both (a) genuine (not copies or otherwise questionable) and (b) relate to the employee named, you must attest under penalty of perjury that, to the best of your knowledge, the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. Include the date the employee began working for your company. Sign, date, print your name and title and include the address of the company.

Section 3 Updating and Re-verification

Section 3 is used to update information on documents which have expired and allows for a new document expiration date to be added to the form.

Keeping Copies of Documents

If your company is using the E-Verify system, keep photocopies of all documents. If you are not using E-Verify, you don't need to keep copies of documents. If you do keep copies, do this for ALL employees.

After Form I-9 is Completed - What to Do

You as the employer must keep a copy of a completed Form I-9 for all employees. You do not need to submit this document to any U.S. government agency.

The details in this article provided to assist you as the employer in understanding the requirements of completing the I-9 form. They are not intended to be inclusive. Be sure to read through the entire I-9 document to make sure you are completing this document completely and correctly.

Correcting Mistakes

Correct errors on Form I-9 in the same was as you would other important documents.Do not use whiteout or try to erase the mistake. The standard procedure for correcting mistakes in important documents is: 

  • Line through the incorrect information (make sure the information can still be read)
  • Make the change
  • Date and initial the change.

Tips for completing Form I-9

  1. You as the employer may designate an employee or someone else to complete the employer parts of the I-9 form. But, the INS says, "if someone else fills out form I-9 on your behalf, he or she must carry full I-9 responsibilities."
    An employee can receive help completing Section 1. Make sure the helper completes the "Preparer and/or Translator Certification" block and have the employee sign.
  2. More information - answers to questions about I-9 form
    See this article with answers to common questions about form I-9 and employment eligibility verification

  3. You are required to protect the private information provided by employees on the I-9 form and on supporting documents. Use this information for I-9 purposes ONLY and store the documents in a safe, secure location, like a locked file cabinet to which only a few trusted individuals have the key.
  4. Some U.S. state employment agencies may verify employment eligibility and certify employees they send to you. Be sure you get and keep a copy of the certification from your state in this case.