I-9s & E-verify: What Employers Need to Know

We often get asked for guidance on I-9s which is the form used for verifying the identity and employment eligibility of new hires.  All employers are required to verify and maintain an I-9 form for all employees, including U.S. citizens and non-citizens, hired after November 6, 1986, who will be working in the United States.

E-verify is an online system that allows employers to verify the employment eligibility of their employees.  It doesn’t replace the I-9, as the information completed on the I-9 is asked for on the E-verify site.  E-verify just allows confirmation of the employee’s employment eligibility, usually within a few seconds.

E-verify is required by some States.  Currently, the States requiring private employers to use e-verify are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.  If an employer has an employee in one of these States, they must use e-verify for all employees regardless of their State of employment, once they have an employee working in the State requiring e-verify.

I-9 audits can and do occur.  A few important things to note about I-9s:

  • The current I-9 form, found here: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/forms/i-9-paper-version.pdf is expired as of 10/31/2022. The current guidance is to continue to use the expired form.
  • Employers must complete the I-9 form within 3 days of the new hire’s start date.
  • It is important for employers to review the new hires completed information to ensure accuracy and completeness.
  • It is important for the employer to complete the Employer section of the I-9s.
  • Employers must not discriminate against employees based on their citizenship or national origin and must treat all employees equally when verifying their employment eligibility.
  • It is important to be consistent in either collecting supporting I-9 documentation or not collecting it. Our preference is that employers collect the supporting documentation and store it with the I-9.  Acceptable documents to establish citizenship can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/form-i-9-acceptable-documents
  • I-9s must be stored, electronically or in paper form, separately from an employee’s personnel file. We advise employers to use a separate I-9 file where they store all employee’s I-9.  That separate file must be secured and have limited access by others in the organization.
  • Employers must retain the employee’s I-9 for 3 years after the employee is hired, or 1 year after the employee terminates, whichever is later.

It’s a good practice to do an internal I-9 audit on an annual basis to ensure that every employee is accounted for, the forms are complete and accurate, and to separate out any I-9 forms for employees who have left the company.  If doing an internal I-9 audit sounds like watching paint dry, give us a call, and we’ll take care of it for you!  Milestones HR is an outsourced human resources partner for small and medium-sized professional service businesses throughout the tri-state area.  Check out our website at www.milestoneshr.com or give us a call at 608-370-4642.

Written by: Angie Addison, SHRM-CP, PHR