Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal advice. Please seek counsel from an employment law attorney for specific situations.
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How to fill out an I-9 form in 6 steps
The I-9 form is a federal document that verifies an employee’s identity and U.S. work authorization. All companies must complete an I-9 form for every new hire that receives a W-2.
If you’re new to form I-9 or need to understand how to complete the new 2023 version correctly, follow the steps below.
- Designate your authorized representative.
- Have the new hire complete Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation.
- Inspect the new hire’s I-9 identification documents.
- Complete Section 2: Employer Review and Verification.
- Complete I-9 supplements, if applicable.
- Properly store the I-9 form.
Start using the 2023 I-9 form by November 1, 2023
You can begin using the 08/01/23 edition of the I-9 as early as August 1, 2023. USCIS allows employers to use the 10/21/19 edition until October 31, 2023. You can find the edition of your I-9 in the lower left corner of the form.
Starting November 1, 2023, all employers should use the 08/01/23 I-9 version.
Prefer a how-to video instead? Watch our overview below.
1. Designate your authorized representative
Before completing I-9 documents, make sure you determine who will act as your authorized representative to complete the employer’s portion of I-9 duties on your behalf.
In most cases, anyone other than the new hire can be your authorized representative to verify documents, including managers, forepersons, notaries, coworkers, or even the employee’s spouse.
Even though the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows you to designate anyone to inspect and verify documents, be aware that your company is liable for any I-9 mistakes or violations your authorized representatives make. So, be sure that whomever you designate is familiar with the I-9 process.
Only one person should complete the employer’s portion of the I-9. However, you can train and designate multiple individuals within your organization to act as your representative. Having multiple representatives on staff ensures you complete the I-9 form timely, especially for high-volume hiring needs.
Be careful if you use notary publics for your authorized representative.
If you contract with a notary public to act as your authorized representative for I-9 purposes, please note that some state laws, like California’s Business & Professions Code, Sections 22440 and 2244, require the notary public also to be a registered immigration consultant. Check the laws in your state to ensure this doesn’t apply to you.
Additionally, notary publics should not stamp their seals on I-9 forms after completing them, as doing so invalidates the form.
2. Have the new hire complete Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation
Your new hire should complete Section 1 of the I-9 form before the end of their first day of work, which includes their contact information and citizenship or immigration status.
The first part of Section 1 asks employees to fill out basic demographic information, including:
- Last and first names.
- Middle initials (if applicable).
- Other last names (such as birth names).
- Current physical address.
- Date of birth.
- U.S. Social Security number (optional unless your company is enrolled in E-Verify).
- Email address (optional).
- Telephone number (optional).
Employees should use their legal names to complete this form, including any punctuation like hyphens. They should also write all dates in the following format: MM/DD/YYYY. If a field does not apply to them, it is okay to leave it blank or write “N/A.”
Next, employees must check the box identifying their citizenship and immigration status. They must choose one of the following four options:
- Citizen of the U.S.: The new hire was born or naturalized in the U.S.
- Noncitizen national of the U.S.: The new hire was born in American Samoa, including Swains Island, or is a former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands citizen.
- Permanent resident: The new hire is not a U.S. citizen but legally resides in the U.S. as an immigrant.
- Citizen authorized to work: The new hire has authorization to work in the U.S., sometimes to a specific date, but is neither a citizen, noncitizen national, nor permanent resident.
Options three and four require the new hire to supply additional information next to the checked box. For option three, employees must provide their USCIS number or A-number. For option four, they have to provide the expiration date of their U.S. work authorization plus either their A-number, Form I-94 admission number, or foreign passport number and country of issuance.
Finally, new employees must sign and date that the information they provide in Section 1 is true or risk fines or imprisonment for perjury. Remember, the employee should complete Section 1 between their hire date and their first day of work; they should not enter their birth date in the date box.
A properly completed Section 1 of the I-9 form should look something like this:
To make completing Section 1 easier for new employees, make it part of their first-day orientation with you or, better yet, their preboarding experience. Software like HR Cloud, for example, can send new hires an email or a mobile app notification to complete their new hire paperwork, including guidance on compliantly completing the I-9.
3. Inspect the new hire’s I-9 identification documents
Next, your authorized representative must physically examine acceptable I-9 identifications from your new employee to verify their identity and work authorization.
Employees must present these documents to your authorized representative after they complete Section 1 but no later than three business days after their start date. Usually, employees bring these documents for in-person inspection on their first day of work.
The document contains three lists of acceptable identifications: A, B, or C.
Can I make photocopies of I-9 identifications?
USCIS states that you can make copies or scan in applicable identifications for your records as long as you keep them with the I-9 form and follow I-9 retention requirements.
However, some experts state that making copies of I-9 identifications can appear discriminatory, especially if you only copy identifications from a particular employee group. So, if you decide to take copies, make sure you are doing so for all your new employees.
List A identifications verify both an employee’s identity and their authorization to work in the U.S. Common examples include:
- U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card.
- Permanent Resident Card.
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with a photograph.
Pro tip: Double-check the passport number if the employee provides a U.S. passport. Current U.S. passport numbers consist of nine digits or one letter plus eight digits. Also, you cannot accept a foreign passport as a List A document unless it has a machine-readable immigrant visa with “Temporary I-551” written on it.
List B identifications verify an employee’s identity only, not their authorization to work in the U.S. Examples include:
- Driver’s license.
- State ID card.
- School ID with a photograph.
- Voter registration card.
- U.S. military card.
Pro tip: All driver’s licenses and state ID cards should have expiration dates; only accept these identifications if they do. However, not all school IDs do. Sometimes school IDs list the school year the ID is valid for, like 2022-2023. In this case, its expiration date should be 12/31/2023, the last day of 2023.
List C identifications establish the employee’s employment authorization only, not their identity. Examples include:
- Social Security Card.
- Original or certified copy of a birth certificate.
- U.S. Citizen ID Card.
Pro tip: Be careful with Social Security Cards; you cannot accept ones with the following notations as a list C identification:
- NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.
- VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.
- VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH INS AUTHORIZATION.
In these cases, you will have to ask the employee to present another valid document from list A or C.
Always keep the Lists of Acceptable Documents handy!
Have this sheet available for your employees to guide them on what documents to bring. Post it in an area for your authorized representative to reference when inspecting I-9 identifications.
And, if you ever have questions on particular documents or need examples of what they look like, check out USCIS’s Acceptable Documents for Verifying Employment Authorization and Identity or its separate pages for List A, List B, and List C documents.
4. Complete Section 2: Employer Review and Verification
After your authorized representative examines the new employee’s I-9 identifications and determines they are valid and genuine, it’s time to fill out Section 2.
Section 2 has three columns, one for each type of I-9 identification: A, B, or C. For each document the employee provides, you must record the following information:
The employee only needs to bring a valid list A identification OR list B and C identifications. Do not fill in identifications in all three columns, even if the employee provides valid documents for each. If you are audited, this simple act could appear like you asked this employee to provide extra documentation compared to others, which may be deemed discriminatory.
Fill out this area if an employee provides a valid List A document, such as a U.S. passport or permanent resident card. This area offers additional space to input identifications, unlike the areas for B or C documents. This is because some List A documents have two parts that need extra space — for example, a foreign passport with an associated I-94 form.
If Jane Doe provides a U.S. passport, a completed list A area would look like this:
If the employee does not supply a list A document, use this area to fill out the appropriate list B and C documents establishing the employee’s identity and employment authorization, respectively.
If Jane Doe gave your authorized representative a valid driver’s license and Social Security card — the most frequent forms of identification for the I-9 — the completed list B and C areas would look like this:
The additional information area is for special circumstances. Usually, this section is for updates to document receipts or temporary identifications.
Check the box at the bottom of the additional information area only if you use E-Verify and remotely examine I-9 identifications. Otherwise, all other authorized representatives must physically inspect documents.
Your authorized representative must indicate what date the employee started with your company. This is the day the employee begins training or performing work for your company and is different from their hire date.
Finally, your representative should provide their name, title, signature, and date. The address area should be the physical address of your company, not a P.O. Box.
If your company has multiple locations, use the address most relevant to the employee and the I-9 form. For example, this could be where the representative examined documents and filled out Section 2 or where the employee will work for your company.
If I’m the authorized representative who inspected and filled in the information for Jane Doe’s documents, then the start date and certification section would look something like this:
Remember, I-9 dates matter!
Make sure your new hire and authorized representative are aware of the timeline for the I-9. Employees have until the end of their first day to complete Section 1. Authorized representatives must complete Section 2 within three business days of the employee’s start date.
The dates for Jane Doe’s I-9 looked like this:
5. Complete I-9 supplements, if applicable
The 2023 version of the I-9 has two supplemental documents for particular instances:
If any of the situations above apply to your employee, your authorized representative must complete the corresponding supplement and attach it to their I-9 form. Remember to fill out the employee’s name in the boxes at the top of these supplements so, in case they get separated from the employee’s I-9 form, you know to whom they belong.
For Supplement A, have each preparer or translator provide their basic information, sign, and date the form. They should be signing this form at the same time the employee completes Section 1.
For Supplement B, you only need to fill out the applicable areas (rehire date, name change, or employment authorization re-verification). For example, if Jane Doe provides a new Social Security card as proof of their name change, you will only need to fill out the section applicable to this change. Then, you must sign and date to certify this information, similar to Section 2.
So, documenting Jane Doe’s name change to Jane Smith in Supplement B would look like this:
6. Properly store the I-9 form
You must keep an employee’s I-9 form for as long as the employee works for you. The file should include:
- I-9 form.
- Document photocopies.
How long should I keep the I-9 form if the employee separates from the company?
If the employee separates from the company, you must keep their I-9 documentation on file for one year after their termination or three years after their start date, whichever is later.
For example, if Jane Doe’s start date was August 2, 2023, but left the company on October 7, 2023, you must keep their I-9 on file until at least August 2, 2026, before destroying it.
You can keep I-9 forms with the rest of an employee’s onboarding paperwork in physical files, but ensure access to these documents is limited to managers or H.R. teams on a need-to-know basis.
In the event of an audit, we recommend keeping I-9s and copies of any supporting identifications separate from the rest of an employee’s personnel paperwork. This also makes it easy to add I-9 supplements or other additional information when needed.
For efficiency and peace of mind, using HR software to complete and maintain the I-9 digitally is the way to go. Even small business human resources information systems (HRISs) or payroll platforms, like Gusto, typically retain I-9 forms with audit trails to ensure compliance.
Check out the Gusto demo below featuring employee I-9 support:
Download the 2023 I-9 form
Don’t be fooled by websites trying to sell you the I-9 form or other required government documents. The I-9 form is free and can be downloaded and printed from USCIS’s I-9 central.
Or, download the 2023 version of the I-9 form in English or Spanish here:
*For use in Puerto Rico only.
Many software solutions can help simplify the back-and-forth process of completing the I-9 form. Explore our Onboarding Software Guide for a complete list of solutions.
I-9 form FAQs
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