The I-9: Just a Simple Little Form – Yeah Right!

Back on July 12th I wrote a post called. Feds Getting Heavy on I-9 Enforcement: So Dot Those I’s and Cross Those T’s where I talked about some of the very nasty results of not properly filing, recording, and storing I-9s. By this time in our working lives there should be no one who has not seen an I-9. If you have started another job since 1986 you have had to complete this form. So you may ask “What is the big deal it is just a simple form.” Well the answer to that is that it is not so simple. There have been multiple iterations of the form. (TIP: Always keep a copy of the instructions that accompany the form you used. Since the types of ID that apply have changed you should be able to show an auditor that at that time you were in compliance.) This form is so simple (not!) that the USCIS put out a 65 page handbook on how to complete the form. Yes you read that correctly, 65 pages. You can find this Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) by click the underlined title.

On July 22, 2010 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published a final rule that allows employers and recruiters or referrers for a fee, who are obligated to retain the Form I-9, to sign this form electronically and retain it in an electronic format. This final rule amends and updates an interim rule published on June 15, 2006. It allows you to even have I-9s saved in paper or electronic formats or a combination ot the two. But before you go “great I can scan all these forms from now on” make sure you understand the requirements. You can also fill out a form electronically on the USCIS website. However, there are some hoops you have to jump through to make sure it is correctly done. If it is not done correctly then you will be found in violation of the law.

ICE and USCIS also cleared up a couple of other issues. First was the “three day rule”. ICE/USCIS said this is three “workdays” and the three days does not include the first day worked. You can do the paperwork ahead of time.

For some people there has been some confusion about storage. The question is how long do I have to keep these forms. Straight from the handbook comes this statement. “Forms I-9 must be stored for 3 years after the date you hire an employee, or 1 year after the date you or the employee terminates employment, whichever is later. For example, if an employee retires from your company after 15 years, you will need to store his or her Form I-9 for a total of 16 years.” This maybe one of the advantages of electronic storage.

The also answered some questions on E-verify and the three day rule. You can find guidance for that by visiting here. E-Verify is a bit more complex than the I-9. The guidebook for it is can be found by clicking on The User Manual for Employers. It is only 78 pages. Yep only 78 pages. Happy reading.

I would suggest you download both of these guides. If you read the post I wrote earlier (link is above) you know that doing this correctly is critical. You screw this stuff up you can be fined, or charged with a felony and go to jail and have your personal property seized. No one wants that. Crap they take enough already without you even doing anything wrong.  

1 thought on “The I-9: Just a Simple Little Form – Yeah Right!”

  1. Hi Michael:

    Excellent article on the importance of the Form I-9. I had to laugh when you mentioned the 65-page handbook. I did print a copy of the handbook months ago and keep the copy in a three-ring binder for easy access. It has come in handy several times.

    Also, thank you for sharing the information on E-verify. It is very informative and useful for the corporate HR professional. I have not, however, printed that handbook. We have yet to go to electronic storage at my company.

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