An I-9 Form is a form that all United States employers must use to verify the identity and work eligibility of employees.
I-9 Forms are filed annually with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by April 30th each year and must be retained for at least three years after an employee’s date of hire or one year past their employment termination whichever comes last.
There are many different types of I-9 Forms available depending on your needs; however, it is important to note that I-9 forms cannot be filed electronically with USCIS. The article will discuss who can verify an I-9 form among other things.
Who Can Verify These Forms?
I-94 Forms and I-797C Notice of Action forms can be verified by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers.
Employees may also pursue remote I9 verification for I-94 and I-797C notices upon request from DHS or Congress, as well as through official requests made by a court or law enforcement agency to the former employing entity.
It is important to note that I-94s cannot be verified outside of USCIS. However, an I-797C notice can only be verified if issued not more than 120 days ago.
A full list containing all acceptable verification options for these two forms will follow below:
- Unexpired foreign passport with valid visa attached
- Any other document confirming admission into the United States such as Form I-94, I-95 or I-95C
- Unexpired temporary I-551 stamp in foreign passport with attached Form I-94/I 94A indicating unexpired employment authorization
- Driver’s license and social security card issued by the same state of residence
- School ID along with a transcript from the school where the student is enrolled full time.
For the last bullet, the student must be currently attending classes at an academic institution located within 50 miles of their permanent home address to qualify under this option.
The document may not have been expired for more than two years before verification takes place.
Additionally, students are required to provide a letter on official letterhead signed by an authorized representative verifying enrollment status as well as tuition due amounts that are equal to or greater than what is reported on I-94 or I-797C.
What is the Importance of This Form?
I-94 and I-797C forms are important because they verify when an individual has entered the U.S. legally along with their employment authorization.
Employers must follow strict guidelines when verifying I-94 or I-797C forms in order to avoid fines of up to $2000 per employee for any missteps made during verification procedures including:
Failing to properly complete sections on the I-94 form includes providing a photocopy that exhibits alterations, erasures, or overwriting of information contained within these documents.
This can lead to up to six months imprisonment as well as the maximum fine amount imposed by law (currently set at $2500)
It also includes the failure to provide required supporting documentation such as verifiable evidence presented by employees, I-94 documentation, I-797C notices, or a combination of all three.
Employers must also refrain from coercing employees into providing false information while completing I-94 forms and should not delegate these types of tasks to third parties without having a complete understanding that the process may become confusing for both them as well as their staff members.
Specifically, with I-797Cs, employers are required by law to ensure that they retain only one copy per employee/visa holder under this form type which can be located within Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-765).
Employer copies will remain valid indefinitely unless specifically revoked by USCIS; however, an employer’s Form I-129S Notice of Action is considered invalid if the I-797C notice is not valid for employment authorization.
Instructions for Completing an I-9 Form
Fortunately, filling out an I-9 form isn’t too difficult. The following information will break down how to complete an I-9 form for both employees and employers.
Instructions for Employees:
Enter your name as it appears on your passport. If you have legally changed your name since receiving your visa, be sure to include this new legal name within section two.
Be certain that all fields are filled out completely and legibly in black ink only with no abbreviations or whiteout corrections allowed.
Use block capitalization for Section One “Employee Information” while writing in Sentence case for Sections Two through Nine excluding entry number one which must remain in Title Case throughout the completion process
Make sure to sign I-94 (if applicable) and I-797C forms in section number ten
However, if you do not have I-94 or I-797C documentation available at the time of verification, then it is permissible for your employer to complete this portion.
Instructions for Employers:
Enter your business name as it appears on I-797C.
Be sure to check the appropriate box that corresponds with I-94 or I-797C for each employee you are verifying under Section One “Employee Information” and includes their corresponding number beside it within Space #11 of section two.
For example, if an I-94 form is completed, then the employer must place a checkmark in Box A followed by numbering alongside this same box from one through nine which will correspond directly with entry numbers one through nine found on the I-94 Form.
Similarly, if an I-797C document was utilized during verification procedures then employers should enter a checkmark in Box B instead along with numbering every space throughout Sections Three through Nine beside the I-797C box.
If you are unsure of how to complete any of these forms, then be sure to refer back over I-94 and I-797C documentation first before beginning Section Two “Employee Documents.”
Follow all instructions closely by placing numbers in order as they appear within I-94 or I-797C documents themselves.
You can start with Box A if an I-94 document is being utilized followed by numbering every section throughout Sections Three through Ten excluding entry number one which should remain constant for each form type.
How to Review the I-9 Form
After the I-9 form has been filled out, ensuring a proper review is key for compliance. Here is the information necessary to get the job done.
I-9 Form Verification Process for Employers
An I-797C is considered valid for employment authorization only if the I-94 form has been filled out and retained
If a new I-94 document was completed during verification procedures, then employers must retain this original document instead of an I-797C.
Employers are permitted to utilize either one however I-797Cs will be invalidated after they expire while retaining or making copies of any changes made within Section Two “Employee Information”.
Choosing an Authorized Representative for I-129 or I-140 Petitions
Before you can file an I-129 petition, employers must select a representative. This is because the USCIS may forward your application to another office for review if it determines that there are no issues with the content of your petition.
If this happens then they will send out a notice to inform you as well as provide more information on who was listed as authorized representatives along with their corresponding contact details including phone numbers and email addresses.
In addition, those individuals appearing in Section One “Employee Information” should be considered responsible parties within company management while any other employee cannot authorize someone else’s I-797C petitions until permitted by the employer first.
Tips for Ensuring a Seamless I-9 Form Completion Process
Granted, all of this information can be difficult to take in. In sum, here are some important tips to follow to make sure you complete a USCIS Form I-9 without any difficulties.
Hire an HR Team:
I-797Cs can be difficult to manage as an employer if you do not have a team responsible for I-129 and I-140 petitions.
For this reason, ensuring that your HR department is well equipped with knowledge of I-94s and I-797C documents along with how they should be utilized will save time and money in the future by preventing simple errors like incorrect form completion or lost documentation.
Adhere to Details:
Those listed on I-94 forms should follow all details closely following Section Two “Employee Documents”.
This is because employers must accurately fill out information for each employee including their full name, date of birth, social security number (or alien registration number), place of birth, nationality/citizenship status as well as their I-94 entry number.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help:
If you need help or clarification on I-94 and I-797C documentation then make sure to ask your immigration lawyer.
This is because they can provide employers with information about entry numbers, I-129 petitions along other details critical for ensuring compliance over the course of employment within American borders.
Keep Proper Track of I-9 Forms:
Employers are responsible for I-94s and I-797C forms, therefore keeping track of information regarding the number submitted to USCIS is necessary.
This can be done by retaining copies in file folders or filing cabinets while also submitting originals to the USCIS within three days of I-129 petitions being approved.
Verify These Forms Properly:
Next, I-94 forms and I-797Cs should be verified to ensure their accuracy along with the information contained within.
This can be done by reviewing copies of I-794s which contain I-94 numbers as well as verifying that these documents are still valid through USCIS verification services.
Remember the Deadlines:
I-94s and I-797Cs should never expire so long as they are still valid.
However, employers must remember that I-129 petitions will be invalidated after their expiration date while I-140 petitions will not have any impact on the validity of I-797C forms until the application is approved or denied.
Coordinate I-9 Forms Correctly for Rehires:
When planning on hiring employees who have been away from the company for a while, I-94 forms must be coordinated with I-797Cs.
This is because rehires of former employees will need an I-797C along with their corresponding I-94 forms which means that employers can save time and money by utilizing I-794s containing I-94 numbers already submitted to the USCIS.
Lastly, don’t forget about Section Three “Employer Review” where it lists details regarding employer information such as business name and address among other things including contact information in case more clarification is necessary before completing Section Four “Employee’s Acceptance”.
Avoid Critical Audit Mistakes:
It is important for employers to be aware of the potential risks involved with I-94 and I-797C forms.
This can be done by avoiding critical mistakes such as losing I-94/I-797C documents, submitting expired forms, or not completing forms correctly which could result in fines ranging from $110-$1140 per form (depending on whether or not it’s an intentional error)
This is among other things like delayed processing times while also facing possible penalties if these errors are found within three years after filing paperwork.
Take Note of This Form’s Anti-Discrimination Provisions:
I-94 and I-797C forms are subject to anti-discrimination provisions which prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of national origin or citizenship status.
This is because current law states that I-129 petitions must be filed by U.S. citizens while I-140 petitions may only be submitted by lawful permanent residents (i.e., green cardholders).
Avoid Improper Storage of These Documents:
Employers must be very careful with I-94 and I-797C forms as they can’t simply be kept in any office or filing cabinet.
This is because these documents require special storage such as a locked file drawer with only designated personnel allowed to access them.
Don’t Lose These Documents:
Next, it’s important for employers not to lose I-94/I-797Cs while also making sure that submitted copies are retained by employees throughout employment (i.e., up until the date of termination).
However, if an employee leaves before their I-129 petition expires then make sure to provide this information along with proof that their I-129 was approved which includes emails from USCIS officials and I-797Cs.
Lastly, make sure to coordinate with USCIS verification services and I-94/I-797C forms (i.e., I-794s) for rehires as mentioned earlier in the article about avoiding critical audit mistakes.
Interested in Learning More About I-9 Forms?
As you can see, there are several important things to know about filling out an I-9 form. On top of knowing who can verify the form, you’ll also need to understand the conditions for completing and storing these forms.
To learn more about this subject, continue reading our blog for more helpful articles.