Help! What is an I-9 form?

Nov. 20, 2014
An I-9 form is a document that all employers - however many employees - are required to have for each employee. While this requirement has been in place since 1986, many dentists still don't know about it or fail to properly manage this area of employment compliance. This should concern you since recent data show:

BY Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg

An I-9 form is a document that all employers - however many employees - are required to have for each employee. While this requirement has been in place since 1986, many dentists still don't know about it or fail to properly manage this area of employment compliance. This should concern you since recent data show:

• In fiscal year 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted only 250 audits, yet in 2012, audits rose to more than 3,000.

• From 2009 until 2012, fines for I-9 violations grew from $1 million to $13 million.

• The number of company owners, executives, and managers arrested during ICE investigations increased to 238.

All indications are that fiscal year 2014 will, in fact, be worse. So, this is not the time to be slacking off in this area of employment compliance.

Why bother?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 requires all employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility for all employees hired after November 1986 through the I-9 form.

What needs to be done?

The newly hired employee completes Section I. Beyond getting basic information, this section asks the employee to indicate whether or not he or she is a U.S. citizen. If not, the employee must state how it is that he or she is authorized to be in the United States working.

The employer completes Section II, wherein he or she examines Section I and asks for documentation supporting the employee's claim that he or she is authorized to work in the United States. The employer reviews the documents and records the required information on the form.

The employer completes Section III when an employee's documents expire or an employee is terminated and rehired at a later date. Visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for the most current I-9 form (or call us). The form should have an expiration date of 03/31/16 on it.

What are the Form I-9 requirements?

Section I of the form must be completed on the employee's first day of employment. Complete Section II within the first three working days of the employee's employment. This includes inspection of the provided documents. You cannot require the form to be completed prior to hiring the employee. If employment is for three or fewer days, then both Sections I and II must be completed on the employee's first day of work prior to the employee commencing work duties.

The list of permissible documents is on the form under Lists A, B, and C. The employer must get one document from List A, or one from List B and one from List C. The employer may not specify the documents he or she will accept, nor request more documentation than is required. If the employee cannot provide the document(s) within the given time frame, then termination of employment is advised. We do not recommend that you continue to employ undocumented workers or photocopy supporting documents. Whether or not you choose to keep copies, be consistent with all employees.

What are the retention requirements?

You should keep the I-9 forms in a separate file. You must keep the forms on file for the duration of an employee's employment. Upon termination, you must keep the forms three years from the date of hire or one year from termination, whichever is longer.

What are the penalties for lack of compliance?

Failure to comply carries civil and criminal penalties. Specifically, if you fail to complete or retain I-9s, civil fines range from $110 to $1,100 per violation (i.e., for each time an I-9 should have been completed, retained, etc.).

Conclusion

Complying with I-9 form requirements is not difficult or time-consuming. If you have been maintaining your I-9 forms, you may want to consider an internal audit to ensure everything is in place correctly. If not, get on it now. Don't risk serious financial losses if you ever find yourself in an audit situation.

Rebecca Boartfield is a human resource compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates and Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists successfully deal with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company's quarterly newsletter or learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit www.bentericksen.com.

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