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Everything You Need To Know About Form I-9

Everything You Need To Know About Form I-9Photo from Unsplash

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If you’ve been following the news cycle recently, you’d know that ICE raids in the workplace are happening more often. There was recently a big raid in Mississippi that made headlines. ICE audits are up 400% from the fiscal year 2017 to the fiscal year 2018. So, what does this mean for your business? As a company, you need to make sure that you are following federal regulations for employment. If you don’t do this, it can cause many serious issues for your company. We are going to be shedding some light on E-Verify over the next few weeks, but we wanted to start with the basics: filling out form I-9.

What Is Form I-9?

This form will help you stay compliant with federal regulations when it comes to making sure your employees are allowed to work in the United States.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act into law. This law made it illegal to knowingly hire illegal immigrants in the United States. To verify the status of employees, the United States government created form I-9 or the Employment Eligibility Verification form. Employers must complete form I-9 within three days of a hire.

Who Fills Out Form I-9?

Form I-9 is filled out by employees you hire, not contractors, temporary workers you hired through an agency, or employees not working on U.S. soil. These workers fill out section one of the form and provide original copies of their verification documents. After that, it is your job to verify these documents, and fill out the rest of the form as appropriate. With the help of solutions like WorkBright Remote I-9, getting these forms filled out and verified should be simple on both ends.

I-9 Violations And Penalties

Now, let’s move into some of the violations and penalties businesses face for failure to comply with I-9 regulations. There are two types of violations or infractions: Technical/Procedural Violations and Substantive Violations.

Form I-9 is not a form that you actively submit to the government. It is a form you need to have on hand for every employee in case you are audited. This is another reason why a digital solution like WorkBright will help you succeed because you’ll always have access to this information in a secure, easy to find way.

Technical/Procedural Violations

Technical or procedural violations are less serious mistakes. Employers will have ten days to correct these mistakes after notice that they were made. These violations include:

  • No address or date of birth
  • No preparer and/or translator name
  • Missing address, or date
  • No alien or admission number (for authorized alien)
  • Failure to date section 1 or 2
  • No date of hire
  • No business title, name, or address

Substantive Violations

Substantive violations are serious mistakes. Employers will have no chance to correct these mistakes, and you can face some severe penalties because of these mistakes. Here are the substantive violations:

  • No I-9 prepared or presented
  • Failure to provide a name in section 1
  • Incomplete box indicating citizenship status
  • No signature in section 1, 2, or 3
  • Improper documents recorded
  • Missing document information
  • Failure to complete within the required time frame

The penalties for substantive violations can be pretty harsh. For example, a substantive violation can cost businesses $110-$1,100 per violation. Knowingly hiring and continuously employing people who are not eligible to work in the United States can lead to a fine of $375-$16,000 per violation. ICE considers the following factors when determining penalty amounts: the size of the business, good-faith efforts to comply, the seriousness of the violation, whether the violation involved unauthorized workers, and history of previous violations.

ICE Audits And Raids

Compliance is vital because as we stated earlier, ICE audits are up with no signs of stopping. Right now ICE audits were up 400% from 2017-2018. ICE has also discussed plans for a 10-15k annual audit goal. These audits are happening across a variety of states, not just border states.

Your organization may also have to deal with ICE raids, where a significant number of ICE agents converge upon a workplace with a search warrant to find employees suspected of criminal offenses and/or undocumented status. These raids are often heavily broadcast and can have a negative impact on your employees. While these raids are less rare than a typical audit, you should still understand that this is one of the methods ICE currently uses to enforce form I-9 and the use of legal workers for U.S. businesses.

Steps You Can Take To Protect Your Business With Form I-9

We’ve talked about what Form I-9 is, who fills it out, what the violations and penalties are, and what enforcement has looked like recently for the form. Finally, let’s shed some light on the quick things your business can do to follow the rules and comply with I-9.

Train Your Employees To Fill Out The I-9 Promptly And Correctly

Section one of Form I-9 should be completed on the first day of your employee’s tenure at your company during the employee onboarding process. They also need to provide verification documents by the third business day of their employment with your company or their contract should be terminated. Make sure that section one is completely filled out because many of the substantive or technical/procedural violations happen in section one. Make sure your employees know what they need to fill out so they can complete their required section of the form.

Carefully Look Over Verification Documents

If you were audited, an expired verification document wouldn’t stand up and could lead to a substantive violation. Make sure you look over every verification document provided to make sure it’s up to date.

Make Sure You Keep Up With Sections You Need To Fill Out

As the employer, it is your responsibility to fill out sections two and three (if necessary.) Take your time and make sure you fill these out. Again, many of the violations we mentioned earlier happen in sections two and three, so you want to make sure you take your time to fill them out.

Keep Up With Your Copy Of The Form For Safe Keeping

Last, but not least, keep any documents in a place where you can easily access them. It will be your responsibility to show these documents if you are ever audited. Keep them in a place electronically or on-site where you can access them easily.

Related ReadingWhy You Should Stop Printing Your HR Files


While Form I-9 can seem scary due to increased audits, it’s not as complicated as it looks to be compliant. There are many resources out there about filling out this form and keeping it secure for potential audits.

Do you have any further questions about Form I-9? The U.S. Citizenship And Immigration Services website has a plethora of helpful frequently asked questions about the form. Check those FAQs out here.

Keep an eye out on the WorkBright blog because next week we are covering E-Verify Basics to help you get to know the latest way of verifying employees and their work status.

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