Correcting I-9 mistakes

Making sure you have correct I-9 forms is critical.

As a consultant, I often find that companies make mistakes with the I-9 form, also known as the Employment Eligibility Verification form. These mistakes, if discovered by the USCIS, can cost a great deal. In fact, one company had to pay over $600,000 for 808 mistakes. The good news is that you can correct mistakes that you discover and stay out of trouble. This will be critical in 2019, as the Federal government is going to clamp down on employers in an attempt to make coming to the U.S. less attractive for illegal workers.

General rules

I have written about I-9 several times but in I-9 Audits: 6 Things You Need To Know I offered some tips to keep you out of trouble. You should read these, they are important. For your convenience, I am reprinting them below.

  1. You can be fined for OVER DOCUMENTATION. If you ask for more documentation than is required you can be fined and face charges of possible discrimination.
  2. We have all heard of the three-day window on I-9 completion. In reality Section 1, the employee section must be completed on the FIRST DAY of employment. Section 2, the employer section, where presented documents are recorded must be done by the THIRD DAY. You MUST have a good tickler system.
  3. It is critically important that you PURGE THESE FORMS ON A TIMELY BASIS. Forms on terminated employees have to be kept for at least three years after the date of hire or for one year after termination, whichever is the longer period. Then you should shred the document. If you retain these documents and ICE performs an audit you can be held liable for all mistakes and omissions found on those forms, even though the person is no longer employed by you. This could be a costly mistake.
  4. If you have forms that are incorrect, DO NOT CREATE A NEW FORM! Use the old form and make your corrections. Note on the form, and at each correction, that this is done “Per Self Audit”.
  5. EVERYONE is covered. Even if you are a company of 1 person and you are on the payroll you must have an I-9.

Additional tips

Here are a couple of additional tips from Business Management Daily.

  1. If there is an error related to an employee’s documents (e.g., missing information), you will need to have the employee bring in either a List A document or a List B and a List C document. Do not require the employee to bring in the same document(s) that he/she originally used; you must accept any document(s) from the Lists Of Acceptable Documents. (My emphasis)
  2. If you are missing I-9 forms for former employees that should still exist (i.e., it has been less than three years after the date of hire or less than one year after termination), there isn’t much you can do. If there are copies of the employees’ documents attached, you can fix simple transcription errors. You can also look at personnel files to fill in a missing hire date. Otherwise, you do not have to contact former employees to correct other errors.

Good document management is the key to avoid unnecessary fines. Doing the documents right in the first place is the best preventative.

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