Taxes What Is an I-9 Form? Form I-9 Explained By Alison Doyle Alison Doyle Facebook Twitter Website Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts and has counseled both students and corporations on hiring practices. She has given hundreds of interviews on the topic for outlets including The New York Times, BBC News, and LinkedIn. Alison founded CareerToolBelt.com and has been an expert in the field for more than 20 years. learn about our editorial policies Updated on September 19, 2022 Fact checked by Mrinalini Krishna Fact checked by Mrinalini Krishna Twitter Mrinalini is the senior investing editor at The Balance and is an expert in investing, financial journalism, digital media, and more. She's been a journalist for more than 10 years at organizations such as the Financial Times and Investopedia, and she has a master's in business and economic reporting from New York University. learn about our editorial policies Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article How Does Form I-9 Work? Who Uses an I-9 Form? Where to Get an I-9 Form What to Do If You Don't Receive an I-9 Form How to Fill Out and Read an I-9 Form How to File an I-9 Form Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: elenaleonova / Getty Images Definition Form I-9 is a government form used to verify an employee's eligibility to work in the United States. It's required of all employees and they must include supporting documentation as proof. Key Takeaways An I-9 Form is government paperwork that is required for employees to work in the United States.I-9 Forms verify a person's identity and eligibility for employment.The forms require supporting documentation as proof, such as driver's license or passport. How Does Form I-9 Work? A new employee must complete an I-9 Form, also called an Employment Eligibility Verification Form, as part of the new-hire paperwork provided by their employer. The I-9 Form is used to verify an employee’s identity and to determine whether they are eligible to begin work for the company. It was created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sector of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and must be completed for every employee hired in the U.S. Who Uses an I-9 Form? All new hires must fill out an I-9 Form during the hiring process. The employer must verify the employee's eligibility and identification documents and record the document information on the I-9 Form within three days of employment. If an employee is unable to read or write in English, the form allows for a translator or legal preparer to complete the form on behalf of the employee. You do not need to complete a Form I-9 if you are or were: Hired on or before Nov. 6, 1986, (or on or before Nov. 28, 2009, if employment is in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) and have a reasonable expectation of employment at all times Doing casual domestic work in a private home An independent contractor Employed by a contractor providing contract services, such as a temp agency Not working on U.S. soil Note You don't need your own I-9 if you're self-employed. Discrimination Is Prohibited The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) deemed American employers legally responsible for verifying the employment eligibility of all new employees. While the I-9 Form is not required for volunteers or contract-based employees, foreign nationals on employment visas are required to complete the form. The legislation also includes anti-discrimination clauses. Under the IRCA, U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and asylum seekers legally allowed to work in the United States cannot be denied employment or be forcefully terminated based on origin or citizenship. The IRCA is enforceable for all employers with three or more workers. Where to Get an I-9 Form Your employer may provide you with a copy of the I-9 Form. You can also download it from the USCIS website. What to Do If You Don't Receive an I-9 Form An I-9 Form is necessary for continued employment. An employer that violates the law regarding verification and the I-9 Form could face fines or criminal penalties. If you are missing your Form I-9, contact your human resources department to secure a copy or download one from the internet and submit it to your employer. Missing Documents If an employee fails to produce a required document or a receipt for a replacement document (in the case of lost, stolen, or destroyed documents) within three business days of the date employment begins, they can be terminated. Note An employee who shows a receipt for replacement has 90 days to present the replacement documents. If you need to obtain a copy of your documentation, you may be able to request it online. How to Fill Out and Read an I-9 Form In addition to your basic personal information, when you fill out an I-9 Form you need to provide at least one of the approved forms of documentation to prove your identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. Note Employees must present original documents, not photocopies. Acceptable I-9 Documents There are three categories of documents that you are allowed to submit. Employees are required to present either one of the below documents from List A, or one of the documents from List B plus one of the documents from List C. List A (documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility): United States passport or passport cardPermanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)Foreign passport that contains a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation on a machine-readable immigrant visaEmployment Authorization Document that contains a photograph (I-766)Foreign Passport with a temporary I-551 stampFor a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work only for a specific employer because of their status: a foreign passport and either Form I-94 or Form I-94A with arrival-departure record and work endorsementPassport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or I-94A List B (documents that establish identity only): Driver's license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United StatesID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies or entitiesSchool ID with photographU.S. Coast guard Merchant Mariner Document cardNative American tribal documentDriver’s license issued by a Canadian government authorityVoter's registration cardU.S. military card or draft recordMilitary dependent's ID card For people under the age of 18 who are unable to present a document listed above: School record (such as report card)Hospital or doctor recordDaycare recordNursery school record List C (documents that establish employment eligibility only) Social Security account number card that is unrestricted Original birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of the United States, bearing an official seal (certified copy accepted) Certification of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Forms DS-1350,FS-545, and FS-240) U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197) ID Card for use of resident citizen in the U.S. (Form I-179) Native American tribal document Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security How to File an I-9 Form Employees can complete the I-9 form electronically. The employer then retains the form on file. They must retain a Form I-9 for every employee. Employers can verify an employee's I-9 information online to avoid fines or penalties by using the E-Verify system. This is an online service provided by the federal government that compares information from an employee's Form I-9 with information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records. The employee's Social Security number is required to use E-Verify. Note Foreign nationals on a work visa or students and exchange visitors must have their I-9 re-verified with each extension, or after their visa has expired, when a new employment authorization permit is issued. I-9 forms are required to be retained by the employer for either three years after an employee’s start date or one year after their employment is terminated, whichever is later. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) What is the purpose of an I-9 Form? The I-9 Form helps to verify the identity of an employee and whether they have authorization to work in the United States. All employers are required to complete Form I-9 for their employees. Meanwhile all employees must provide proof of identity and employment authorization to their employers. How do I get an I-9 Form? Your employer may provide you with a copy of the I-9 Form. It is, typically, a part of the new hire paperwork you fill out when starting a new job. You can also download it from the USCIS website. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification." U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Who Must Complete Form I-9." U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Unlawful Discrimination and Penalties for Prohibited Practices." U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Acceptable Documents." U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Reverifying Employment Authorization for Current Employees."