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Avoiding the Top Six Form I-9 Compliance Mistakes

IRS Form I-9

Every time a new employee is hired, the company is required to fill out an IRS I-9 form. If this form is not completed, the company can be fined for non-compliance, or worse. 

What is an I-9 form?

According to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of individuals hired for employment in the U.S. The form must be used to properly document citizens and non-citizens.

The new employee must provide an I-9 supporting document, with specific forms of identification for I-9 processing. There are specific I-9 requirements for employers, including examination of the identity document(s) to determine whether the documents appear to be genuine.

Employers must complete or maintain I-9 documentation for a designated period of time, and make it available for inspection by government officers.

Since every employer has to complete I-9 employee forms, knowing the top compliance mistakes to avoid I-9 penalties is key.

These are listed as the top six mistakes:

Not making sure the I-9 forms are completed on time

This is very important. The employee must complete, sign and date Section 1 of the I-9 form on or before the first day of work for pay after the job has been offered to them. The employer then has three business days to review those original documents as proof of identity and work authorization. The employer completes, signs and dates Section 2. There are very specific I-9 instructions for employers located in the I-9 employer handbook. It outlines all the procedures in detail to ensure all criteria is met.

Allowing untrained staff to administer I-9s

All staff working with I-9 verification documents should be trained, and understand how important it is to not make any mistakes. They should be aware of the expiration dates, and re-verification procedures. It is important that each staff member understands that I-9 forms cannot be back-dated for any reason. If one must be back-dated, a brief memo should be attached with a detailed explanation.

Not conducting an internal I-9 audit

Because there are expiration dates, internal audits must be conducted on a regular basis to determine whether or not existing I-9 forms must be renewed. Many staff members fill out Section 1, but fail to complete Section 2 of the form. Additionally, copies of the identification must be consistent. If you keep copies for one, every file must have them. If not, this is a compliance violation.

Requesting specific documentation as proof of identity and/or work authorization

The employer should not request specific documentation from the applicant. There are multiple documents listed on the form that will be acceptable. If the new hire produces any of these documents, they must be accepted. Employees handling the I-9 verification must be trained to not specifically ask for a driver’s license and Social Security card.

Accepting unacceptable documents

There are specific documents listed in the instructions for I-9 form identification. It is a checklist that should be strictly adhered to, with no deviation from the documents listed as acceptable. Any variations will result in I-9 document violations, and I-9 document penalties

Failing to Sign the I-9 form

Although it should go without noting, there are many instances where the employee and employer have failed to sign the I-9 form. This is a quick error that is easily noticed by the ICE, and substantial fines will follow.

While there are other errors and violations that occur, these are the most common and should be on the radar for all your human resources staff. Proper training and guidance can alleviate these and other mistakes.



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