Small Business Hiring Guide

11. How to Fill Out An I-9 Form

Next Read: What is Form 1094-C?

Small Business Hiring

How to Fill Out An I-9 Form

Jun 02, 2023 • 10 min read
IRS income tax forms
Table of Contents

      Onboarding an employee is an intensive process, especially for a small business. In addition to teaching them about their responsibilities and your company’s systems, there’s also a significant amount of paperwork involved.

      One of the most important administrative tasks to complete when bringing a new hire into the fold is to fill out an I-9 Form. Here’s everything you should know about the document, including what it is, how to complete it, and what to do with it.

      What is Form I-9?

      Federal law requires that you verify each new employee’s eligibility to work in the United States upon hiring them, regardless of their citizenship status. Form I-9, the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, guides both parties involved through the process and serves as evidence of your due diligence.

      If you fail to complete Form I-9 or make false statements on the document, you may face criminal prosecution and severe penalties under federal law, including fines and jail time.

      How to fill out an I-9 form.

      Form I-9 contains three primary sections. Your employee is responsible for Section 1, while you, the employer, must complete Section 2. If applicable, Section 3 is also your responsibility, but it’s unnecessary for new hires.

      Here’s a step-by-step guide to each section.

      Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation

      Your new employee must fill out the first section of their I-9 Form no later than their first day of employment, but not before accepting their job offer. First, they must provide personal information, like their legal name, address, and Social Security Number (SSN).

      Second, they must attest under penalty of perjury that they have authorization to work in the United States based on their citizenship or immigration status. They must affirm that they are one of the following:

      • A citizen of the United States This includes anyone born in the United States and those who naturalized or derived citizenship from their biological parents.
      • A noncitizen national of the United States This includes people born in American Samoa, certain former citizens of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and certain children of noncitizen nationals born abroad.
      • A lawful permanent resident This refers to immigrants who aren’t citizens but reside in the United States through legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence.
      • An alien authorized to work This refers to people who aren’t citizens or lawful permanent residents, but still have authorization to work in the United States.

      If your employee claims to be a lawful permanent resident, they must provide their Alien Registration or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Number. Aliens authorized to work must provide an expiration date on their eligibility, if any.

      After selecting their citizenship or immigrant status, your employee must complete Section 1 by signing and dating the form, attesting under penalty of perjury that their responses are truthful.

      Finally, your employee must state whether they completed their Form I-9 on their own or with the assistance of a preparer or translator. If they had help, the third party must also sign the form and attest to the truthfulness of the details in Section 1.

      Section 2: Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification

      As the employer, you must fill out and sign Form I-9’s Section 2 within three business days of your employee’s first day of employment. Doing so requires attesting that you’ve physically examined documentation verifying their eligibility to work in the United States.

      There are three acceptable document types, and it’s illegal for you to decide which ones your employees provide. Here are the options they can choose to give you.

      List A

      The documents on List A establish your employee’s identity and employment eligibility simultaneously. They include the following:

      • U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card
      • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551)
      • Foreign passport that contains a temporary I-551 stamp
      • Employment Authorization Document containing a photograph (Form I-766)
      • Foreign passport and Form I-94 or I-94A with the same name as the passport or an endorsement of an alien’s nonimmigrant status that has not yet expired
      • Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia or the Republic of the Marshall Islands with Forms I-94 of Form I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission

      One of these documents is enough to satisfy the regulatory requirements.

      List B

      The documents on List B only establish your employee’s identity. Employees who provide an entry from this list must also present one from List C to satisfy regulatory requirements. List B includes the following:

      • Driver’s license or ID card issued by a state or outlying U.S. possession
      • ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies
      • School ID card with a photograph
      • Voter’s registration card
      • U.S. military card or draft record
      • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
      • Native American tribal document
      • Driver’s license issued by a Canadian government authority

      If your employee is a minor under age 18 and unable to provide one of the documents above, they can also use a record from their school, clinic, hospital, doctor, daycare, or nursery school.

      List C

      The documents on List C establish your employee’s authorization to work in the United States. Reviewing one alongside a List B document satisfies your responsibilities. Here are the options:

      • Unrestricted U.S. Social Security Account Number card
      • Certification of report of birth from the Department of State (Forms DS-1350, FS-545, or FS-240)
      • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of the United States bearing an official seal
      • Native American tribal document
      • U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197)
      • Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States (form I-197)
      • Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security

      After you’ve examined evidence of your employee’s identity and work authorization, fill out Section 2 with details like the document title, issuing authority, and expiration date.

      Finally, sign and date the I-9 form to attest, under penalty of perjury, that you’ve examined the necessary documents, found them genuine and applicable to your employee, and believe your new hire is eligible to work in the United States.

      Section 3: Reverification and Rehires

      Section 3 is also the employer’s responsibility, but you can leave it blank if your hire is new to your organization. It’s only necessary when reverifying an employee you’ve filled out Form I-9 with before.

      That occurs when you rehire someone within three years of their original hiring date or if their verification documentation expires. In the latter case, complete Section 3 before the expiration date.

      If your employee’s name has changed since they filled out Section 1, complete Block A. Only enter the part of the name that’s different.

      If you’re rehiring an employee within three years, provide the official rehiring date in Block B. If you’re reverifying eligibility for an employee whose documentation expired, provide the details of the new List A or List C document you reviewed in Block C.

      Finally, sign and date Section 3 to attest that you’ve done your due diligence and believe your employee is authorized to work in the United States, just as you did in Section 2 the last time you filled out their I-9 form.

      What to do with Form I-9.

      Fortunately, you don’t need to file Form I-9 with USCIS or any other regulatory agency. However, you must keep a copy on file with your payroll records until three years after your employee’s hiring date or one year after their employment ends, whichever is later.

      Government officials from the Department of Homeland Security may need to inspect the form during an audit. You don’t have to save a copy of the verification documents your employee provided, but it can be a good idea.

      About the author
      Nick Gallo, CPA

      Nick Gallo is a Certified Public Accountant and content marketer for the financial industry. He has been an auditor of international companies and a tax strategist for real estate investors. He now writes articles on personal and corporate finance, accounting and tax matters, and entrepreneurship.

      Share Article:
      Table of Contents

          Business insights right to your inbox

          Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for industry news and business strategies and tips

          Subscribe to the newsletter

          Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for industry news and business strategies and tips.