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Form I-9 Updates: Everything Employers Need to Know

Any U.S. business that hires employees must complete a Form I-9 for each of them. Although it’s a common practice, it’s not a straightforward process.

Many employers rely on software and support services, like the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) E-Verify service, to simplify the process of verifying employees’ identity and employment eligibility. Even so, it’s important to understand how the Form I-9 itself works. This is especially true for the HR team that has to fix an incorrect I-9 to avoid fines and other penalties.

Luckily, completing I-9s doesn’t have to be an agonizing process. Let’s dive into:

  • what the Form I-9 is and why it’s important
  • what each I-9 section means and how they’ve recently changed
  • 11 common I-9 errors employers need to avoid
  • how a single software simplifies I-9 compliance

What is a Form I-9?

The Form I-9 is a U.S. citizenship and immigration form used to verify an employee’s identity and eligibility to work. I-9s must be completed by:

  • employees
  • employers or their authorized representative

Both U.S. citizens and noncitizens must complete the form. Employers, on the other hand, must determine that the documents authorizing their employees to work are genuine and accurately represent the person in question. Employers must also retain their Form I-9s for federal audits and inspections.

Why is the Form I-9 important?

The Form I-9 helps employers verify their staff’s status and eligibility to work in the U.S. I-9s also help employees ensure their legal information is correct and updated.

If employers fail to maintain I-9s for every worker, they risk:

  • audits
  • hefty fines
  • legal penalties

An incomplete or inaccurate Form I-9 may not automatically result in any of these consequences — provided HR quickly corrects the botched filings. For this reason, the Society for Human Resource Management suggests employers periodically review and correct I-9s in case of a governmental audit.

What are the sections of the Form I-9?

Companies need to ensure new hires quickly and accurately complete I-9s. But helping them do it is easier said than done without an understanding of what each of the form’s three sections does. Consider the following explanations your crash course.

Section 1

Naturally, the Form I-9’s initial section requires the most urgency. It needs to be completed no later than an employee’s first day. New hires should also provide their employer with proof of their identity and work authorization within three days of their start date.

Examples of acceptable Form I-9 documents:

List A List B List C
U.S. passport Driver’s License Social Security card
Permanent resident card (Form I-1551) Military ID Native American tribal document
Foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp Voter registration card An employment authorization issued by DHS

Employees are required to provide either:

  • a document from List A
  • a document from List B and List C
  • in certain cases, you may also present a valid and acceptable receipt of the documents in List A, B, or C

If an employee’s confused about any of these documents, consider providing examples of each to help them identify what they have.

Section 2

Within three days of when employment begins and after employees provide acceptable documentation, an employer or its authorized representative must verify the material’s authenticity. Generally, this review takes place in the relevant employee’s presence.

If you use E-Verify, you may have the option to remotely examine employees’ documents under an alternative procedure authorized by DHS. Contact the agency or a licensed professional to make sure.

Supplement B (formerly Section 3)

This section is only applicable if an employee:

  • has an expired work authorization
  • legally changed their name
  • was rehired

What are the most recent updates to the Form I-9?

Released on Aug. 1 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the latest Form I-9:

  • reverts to the pre-pandemic policy of reviewing employee documentation in person (if E-Verify isn’t used)
  • adds a checkbox in Section 2 to confirm remote document examination
  • reduces the Form I-9 instructions’ length from 15 to eight pages

Employers can still use the previous version of the form through Oct. 31. After that date, the revised Form I-9 will be the only valid option — at least until it expires on July 31, 2026.

How do employers comply with the Form I-9?

Every U.S. employer must complete I-9s for their employees — no exceptions. As of 2023, those that don’t could face penalties of:

  • $272 to $2,701 for substantive violations or uncorrected errors
  • $427 to $11,162 for document fraud
  • $676 to $4,404 for recruiting, referring and hiring for each knowingly employed unauthorized worker
    • $5,404 to $27,018 for second and subsequent hiring offenses

Even in the absence of fines, failing to comply with Form I-9 requirements amplifies the workload for HR. Incorrect or incomplete I-9s force them to sink hours into:

  • identifying specific issues
  • gathering the proper documents from employees
  • verifying the new material is correct

This consumes time HR could instead invest in more important initiatives like employee well-being and engagement. Conducting regular, internal I-9 audits helps employers proactively address errors, missing information and other compliance needs.

What are the most common Form I-9 errors?

Not every I-9 error implies an employee isn’t eligible to work. An error could indicate their form or supporting documents contained mistakes. Here are 11 of the most common I-9 blunders.

1. Spelling mistakes

Even a small typo on someone’s name or address could lead to an incorrect I-9. Relying on software or just reviewing a new hire’s Form I-9 before filing can be enough to prevent a compliance headache.

2. The wrong combination of acceptable documents

Something as simple as providing two items from List B when an employee needed documents from List B and List C can yield a violation. Employers should understand which documents fall under which list and help new hires identify what’s most appropriate.

3. Too many acceptable I-9 documents

Too much material — like proof of an employee’s citizenship that they attest to in Section 1 — can be considered discriminatory, according to the Department of Justice. Simple and minimal is ideal when it comes to acceptable I-9 documents.

4. Late physical inspection of virtually verified I-9 documents

The option to virtually inspect I-9 documents during a hiring spree proved useful, but employers shouldn’t forget this was meant as temporary relief. If a company didn’t physically inspect affected employees’ I-9 materials by Aug. 30, 2023, they may be out of compliance.

5. Missed three-day deadline

Employees have three days from their formal start date to produce acceptable documents and complete their Form I-9. If they miss this window, their employers pay the cost. Complete this step early — before a recent hire is in the thick of their new responsibilities.

6. Incorrect birth dates

It’s an easy mistake we’ve all made. In school, most of our assignments asked for the current date at the top of the first page. The Form I-9, however, doesn’t request it until the end of Section 1. Employers should be mindful of this distinction and vet every I-9 field before filing.

7. Missing dates or signatures

After a while, every field of a form can start to look the same. Unfortunately, omission is a straight shot to noncompliance. Supplement B might not be required, but everything before it should be completed.

8. Corrections submitted without a date or initials

Like signing the initial Form, employees and employers must date and initial corrections to Section 1 and Section 2, respectively. USCIS requires this confirmation, even if the fix clearly resolves the original issue.

9. Unverified information or documents

It seems obvious, but it’s not enough for employers to verbally verify a Form I-9 and its acceptable documents. They need to acknowledge it on the form itself through the appropriate checkbox. This minor mistake can unwind hours of completing and confirming a filing.

10. Not supervising or guiding employees through Section 1

If the I-9 process isn’t automated, employers’ best shot at ensuring accuracy is to directly supervise people and guide them through Section 1. It might be time-consuming, but not nearly as much as resolving an erroneous filing.

11. Lack of training

Employers and employees alike need to understand the purpose of the Form I-9 and how to complete it. Businesses should regularly train HR on how to identify acceptable documents and other common I-9 issues. Avoid referring employees to USCIS for basic questions. Even a brief explanation and short, semi-regular trainings go a long way to prevent noncompliant I-9s.

How does Paycom help with the Form I-9?

Paycom overcomes the biggest challenges of I-9 compliance by automating employment identification and verification within its single software. Paired with our E-Verify® tool, new hires only enter their information once for it to flow seamlessly throughout Paycom.

You can safely and securely store completed I-9s in Paycom alongside your workforce’s other important documents. Plus, our E-Verify tool automatically prepopulates employee information when creating new cases. You’ll even receive a notification of documents expiring soon so you can:

  • easily complete the rehire and reverification supplement
  • verify and file I-9s ahead of their deadlines
  • build self-audits into your I-9 process for greater peace of mind

Plus, Paycom’s easy-to-use dashboard helps you immediately identify pending or incomplete I-9s and other action items.

Explore Paycom to learn how our single software helps businesses ace I-9 compliance and more.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.