All U.S. employers must complete an electronic I-9 Form when hiring a new employee. The aim is to verify the identity and existence of a work permit for new workers.
This employment eligibility verification process effectively prevents illegal employment in the United States. At the same time efforts to curb illegal employment should not lead to discrimination against workers. For this reason, the same I-9 form must be completed for all employees, regardless of whether the employee is a U.S. citizen or has a Green Card or another U.S. residence status.
The I-9 Form consists of two parts:
The employee must provide his or her name, address, and date of birth. The e-mail address and telephone number are optional pieces of information. The employee may or may not choose to specify their Social Security Number (SSC) (with the exception of the use of the E-Verify online system for data checking). Furthermore, the employee must provide information about their status, i.e., the U.S. authorities will check whether the employee is a U.S. citizen, Green Card holder, or holder of a temporary work permit (= work visa).
Before the employer fills out Part 2, it must examine the employee’s original documents and thus confirm the person’s identity and their possession of a work permit. The permitted forms of identification are as follows:
The employee will have sufficiently demonstrated their right to work and identity if they either present
It is up to the employee to decide which documents to present.
Example: A German worker with L-1 Intra Company Transferee status presents a document from List A together with his German passport and the I-94 immigration form. These two documents together are considered to constitute “one document. The employer would then check to see that:
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publishes the most current version of the I-9 Form, including the instructions for downloading.
The employer is obliged to keep the I-9 Form for the entire length of the employment relationship. If the employment relationship ends, the form must be kept for up to three years after the hire date or up to one year after the employee is dismissed (whichever occurs later). Under certain conditions, electronic storage of a copy of the form is sufficient.
In addition, it may be necessary to reverify certain identity and work permit documents in certain situations, including when current documents expire or when new documents are presented.
The U.S. government may check the information presented on an I-9 Form. Failure to comply with the I-9 regulations may result in civil or criminal penalties. Penalties may also be applied if cases of discrimination or employment of employees without a work permit (= illegal employment) are discovered.
The E-Verify system is a supplement to the Form I-9. It does not replace it. Rather, it provides a way of comparing information reported on the I-9 form and data collected by the U.S. government.
The information from the I-9 form is initially transferred into the E-Verify system. Subsequently, this information is compared with electronic data collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to check whether the information reported on the identity and work permits for each new employee is accurate.
Certain companies are required to use E-Verify (e.g., companies that conclude contracts with the U.S. government). Other businesses use the E-Verify system on a voluntary basis. To use E-Verify, a free E-Verify user account must be created.
Please note that E-Verify can also be accessed by employees. Anyone who wants to make sure, for example, that their personal E-Verify data is correct before changing employers can use the so-called Self Check System. If there is any incorrect data, then the data can be corrected.
The official website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides detailed information about I-9 and E-Verify.