September 12, 2023

How to Fill Out I-9 Form

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Tags: HR

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal advice. Please seek counsel from an employment law attorney for specific situations.

Key takeaways

  • The I-9 form is a federal form that every new employee must complete to verify their authorization to work in the U.S.
  • Civil penalties for failing to complete and maintain I-9 paperwork properly can range from $272–$2,701 depending on business size, number of violations, and seriousness of the offense(s).
  • To ensure compliance with changing I-9 forms, use HR software with features that facilitate processing, storage, and regular update cadences.

Aug. 21, 2023: We added example I-9 documents as visual aids for completing Section 2. We also adjusted the width of our images for easier viewing.

Sep. 12, 2023: We added a video overview on how to fill out the I-9 form and adjusted the look of some of the elements on the page.

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.

  1. Designate your authorized representative.
  2. Have the new hire complete Section 1: Employee Information and Attestation.
  3. Inspect the new hire’s I-9 identification documents.
  4. Complete Section 2: Employer Review and Verification.
  5. Complete I-9 supplements, if applicable.
  6. 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.

Jump to download ↓

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:

  1. Citizen of the U.S.: The new hire was born or naturalized in the U.S.
  2. 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.
  3. Permanent resident: The new hire is not a U.S. citizen but legally resides in the U.S. as an immigrant.
  4. 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.

Examples:

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:

Section 1 of the I-9 form with completed fields for employee contact information, citizenship or immigration status, and signature of employee attestation.
Completed Section 1 of I-9 form. Source: TechnologyAdvice

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.

HR Cloud's platform shows both desktop and mobile versions of the I-9 form with fillable fields for the new hire's contact and citizenship or immigration status.
HR Cloud lets new hires complete Section 1 of their I-9 forms digitally via desktop or mobile; eSignature capabilities also mean they don’t have to print their form to sign it. Source: HR Cloud

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:

  • Document title: Name of the type of document the employee provided (e.g., driver’s license).
  • Issuing authority: Official name of the organization that provided the document to the employee.
  • Document number (if any).
  • Expiration date (if any).

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:

Form I-9's Section 2 List A area with the document title, issuing authority, document number, and expiration date fields completed for a U.S. passport.
Completed I-9 Section 2 list A area, using an example U.S. passport. Source: TechnologyAdvice

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:

Form I-9's Section 2 List B and C area with the document title, issuing authority, document number, and expiration date fields completed for a driver's license and Social Security card.
Completed I-9 Section 2 lists B and C areas, using an example driver’s license and Social Security card. Source: TechnologyAdvice

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:

Form I-9's Section 2 Employer Certification area with fields for the new hire's start date, full name and title of the authorized representative, signature, today's date, and business address completed.
Completed I-9 Section 2 start date and employer certification area. Source: TechnologyAdvice

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:

  • Hire date: July 28, 2023.
  • Date of signature for Section 1: August 1, 2023 (between their hire and start date).
  • First day of employment: August 2, 2023.
  • Date of signature for Section 2: August 3, 2023 (within three business days of Jane’s start date).

5. Complete I-9 supplements, if applicable

The 2023 version of the I-9 has two supplemental documents for particular instances:

  • Supplement A Preparer and/or Translator Certification: Use this if the new hire requires a preparer or translator to help them complete Section 1.
  • Supplement B Re-verification and Re-hire: If an employee needs to reverify their employment authorization document after their previous one has expired, provides proof of a legal name change, or is rehired within three years of completing their original I-9 form, use this form.

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:

I-9 form Supplement B with fields for the employee's new last and first names filled out as well as the full name, signature, and date of the authorized representative.
Completed I-9 name change on Supplement B. Source: TechnologyAdvice

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.
  • Supplements.
  • 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 this Gusto demo 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

The purpose of the I-9 form is to verify a new employee’s identity and authorization to work in the U.S. The form is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is enforced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). You are legally required to complete an I-9 form for every new employee.

The new 2023 I-9 form sees some of the most significant format changes in years. Major changes from the old 2019 edition include:

  • Sections 1 and 2 are now on one page.
  • Some fields were merged, like the authorized representative name and title fields in Section 2.
  • The Preparer/Translator Certification area from Section 1 is now a separate, standalone document (Supplement A).
  • Section 3 (Reverification and Rehire) is now a separate, standalone document (Supplement B).
  • Changed “alien authorized to work” in Section 1 to “noncitizen authorized to work.”
  • Added tablet and mobile device capabilities.
  • Added a box in Section 2 for employers to check if they examined I-9 documentation under a DHS-authorized alternative procedure (rather than physical inspection).
  • Added an “Acceptable Receipts” section to the Lists of Acceptable Documents page.
  • Reduced Form I-9 instructions from 15 to eight pages.

You can check out the complete list of changes to the I-9 document in USCIS’s Summary of Changes to Form and Instructions.

E-Verify is a government service that uses USCIS and Social Security Administration records to verify employee I-9 identifications. Except for federal contractors, E-Verify is a voluntary service. Some states, like Florida, also require private employers contracting with state or local governments to use E-Verify.

All employers must complete an I-9 form for their employees, even if they use E-Verify. Acceptable documentation to complete the I-9 form is also more stringent if you use E-Verify.

For example, the I-9 form does not require employees to provide a Social Security number. As long as they supply acceptable documents verifying their identity and employment authorization, they have fulfilled the I-9 requirement. In contrast, all employees must provide a valid Social Security number with E-Verify.

Learn more about the differences between E-Verify and the I-9 form.

Employers must complete the I-9 form as part of their employee onboarding process and other pre-employment screening. The I-9 process should follow the timeline below:

  1. Employee accepts employment offer.
  2. Employee completes Section 1.
  3. Employee attends their first day of work and presents valid I-9 documents for examination.
  4. Authorized representative verifies I-9 documents. 
  5. Authorized representative completes Section 2 by the third business day from the employee’s start date.
  6. (If applicable) employee presents new employment authorized document before their old one expires.
  7. (If applicable) authorized representative completes Supplement B section for reverifying their employment authorization.

No. People move all the time, so an employee’s address can differ from their I-9 identifications, like their driver’s license or state ID. As long as the documents employees provide are valid (not expired) and appear genuine, you should accept them, even if their addresses differ from what they provided in Section 1.

You can temporarily accept an I-9 identification receipt instead of the actual identification if the original one is lost, damaged, or stolen. However, the employee has 90 days from their hire date to present you with their new I-9 identification.

First, record that the employee provided a document receipt with the word “Receipt” before the title. When the employee presents you with their replacement document, cross out “receipt” and the expiration date. Then provide the updated identification information in the Additional Information area. Initial and date the change.

Form I-9's Section 2 shows the expiration date and the word "receipt" crossed out of the fields under the List C column. The additional information box has new Social Security card information, plus an authorized representative's handwritten initials and date.
I-9 Section 2 illustrating the process for temporarily accepting an I-9 document receipt and then recording the replacement document’s information in the Additional Information area. Source: USCIS and TechnologyAdvice

You must complete an I-9 form for each new employee. If you rehire the employee within three years of completing their original I-9, you must complete Supplement B, Reverification and Rehire, and attach it to their original I-9.

Even if you and your employee choose to type directly into the I-9 form, you must still print out the form for both of you to sign.

Luckily, most modern HR software offers I-9 automated workflows, allowing you to maintain I-9 forms and their supporting documents compliantly. Third-party integrations with e-signature platforms like DocuSign and Jotform also eliminate the need for paper copies.

GoCo, for example, guides employees through filling out Section 1 of the form and indicates what documents they will bring for physical inspection. This can save you significant time (and paper) compared to manual processes.

The GoCo platform shows Section 1 of the I-9 form with highlighted fields to fill out.
GoCo automatically sends employees the I-9 form to fill out and e-sign, preventing them from having to go over the I-9 process on their first day. Source: GoCo

As of August 1, 2023, USCIS’s temporary COVID-19 regulations ended. Employers can only verify employees’ I-9 documents remotely if they are enrolled in E-Verify and in good standing.

If you have an entirely remote workforce, you have a few options:

  • Have remote workers come to an onsite location for you to verify their I-9 identifications.
  • Designate a remote worker in the same area as the new hire as your authorized representative and have them verify the new hire’s I-9 documents.
  • Use a legal representative or notary in the same area as the new hire to verify I-9 documents.
  • Sign-up for E-Verify, comply with program requirements, and remain in good standing to remotely examine employee documents.

Onboarding software can also help you remain compliant with USCIS’s rules. For example, WorkBright facilitates remote completion of the I-9 form by allowing employees to pick who will examine their I-9 documents, like a family member or friend. WorkBright will also walk the representative through the process to minimize errors.

The mobile WorkBright platform shows a cartoon thumbnail of an office worker with step 1 instructions on how to verify a new hire's I-9 documents.
WorkBright helps you save money by allowing employees to pick who will verify their I-9 documents, so you do not have to pay for a third-party service. Source: WorkBright

Some documents, like Social Security cards and birth certificates, do not have expiration dates. In those cases, USCIS allows you to leave those areas in Section 2 blank or write “N/A.”

If you have a document that doesn’t have an expiration date but should (like a driver’s license or permanent resident card), it is okay to reject those documents. Let the employee know you cannot accept those documents and ask them to provide a different identification in the Lists of Acceptable Documents.

Luckily, USCIS does not expect us to be document experts. But, if you have a genuine reason to believe a document is fake, you can reject it and ask the employee to provide a different identification from the Lists of Acceptable Documents.

You cannot continue employing the new hire if they are unable to produce valid I-9 documents within three business days of their start date. At that point, USCIS indicates that you may terminate their employment. However, you may want to consult an employment law or immigration attorney for specific situations.

Some documents are notoriously difficult to find their issuing authority. Below is a list of the issuing authorities for some of the most common I-9 identifications for your reference:

  • U.S. Passport: U.S. Department of State.
  • Permanent resident card: USCIS.
  • Driver license/state ID card: State of [State Name]. (For example, State of Tennessee.)
  • School ID card/report card: School Name.
  • Social Security card: Social Security Administration.

For more examples of I-9 identifications, including issuing authorities and other I-9 tips, check out USCIS’s Handbook for Employers M-274.


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