The employer’s role in documenting alien employees is a balancing act. Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) you must verify through examination of certain documents that your employees are authorized to work in the United States. At the same time, you must avoid unfair employment practices.

By law, you must complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form for each new hire and keep the forms on file. Former employees’ forms must be kept for three years from the hiring date or one year after termination, whichever is later.

Acceptable Documentation

In 1996, the law was amended to reduce the number of documents required for verification. There are three categories of acceptable documents:

List A – Documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility, such as a U.S. passport or unexpired temporary resident card.

List B – Documents that establish identity, such as a driver’s license or voter registration card.

List C – Documents that establish employment eligibility, such as a U.S. Social Security card or birth certificate.

You must examine and record on the I-9 form either one document from List A or one document each from Lists B and C. Photocopies are not acceptable. You cannot specify the documents that you want. If the documents appear to be authentic, you must accept them. If they appear to be falsified or to belong to someone else, you should contact the nearest U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.

Who Must Undergo Verification?

You must have an I-9 on file for all employees hired after Nov. 6, 1986, regardless of citizenship. This includes every employee who receives a W-2 tax statement, even if they only work one day. You are not required to verify independent contractors or their workers, but you should ascertain that the workers have gone through I-9 verification. If you knowingly use an independent contractor who employs unauthorized alien workers, you expose yourself to a potential I-9 violation.

Click here to download the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form from the USCIS website.

Handling New Hires

Employers must complete the I-9 verification process within three business days of the new employee’s first day on the job. The only exception occurs when the new hire lacks a required piece of documentation and shows a receipt proving they have applied for a replacement document. In such a case, all documents must be presented and the I-9 form completed within 90 days of the employee’s first day of work. If the documentation is not produced, the employee cannot continue to work. The employer can suspend the employee without pay until the documents are obtained.

You can conduct the I-9 verification process before the new hire starts work, but never initiate it before a job offer is made and accepted. Not hiring someone after seeing documents that reveal citizenship status, age, and national origin could be grounds for a discrimination claim.

Re-verification will be necessary if an employee notes an expiration date for employment eligibility in Section 1 of the I-9 form or expiration for certain documents in Section 2. Re-verification is also advised if the company undergoes a merger, acquisition or re-organization. Take care not to limit re-verification to a certain class of employees in order to avoid claims that your company engages in unfair employment practices.

“If an employee cannot complete Section 1 without assistance or if he or she needs Form 1-9 translated, someone may assist him or her. The preparer or translator must read the form to the employee, assist him or her in completing Section 1 and have the employee sign or mark the form in the appropriate place. The preparer or translator must then complete the Preparer and/or Translator Certification Block on Form 1-9”

— USCIS Handbook for Employers, Guidance for Completing Form 1-9


As we’ve grown, so have our administrative and payroll needs. That’s why we’ve partnered with HR&P. HR&P supports us every day with human resources, payroll, benefits and compliance so we can focus on being the best BB’s Cafe we can be!

Brooks Bassler, Owner, BB's Cafe

Since 2010, my company has grown to over five hundred employees. With our tremendous growth we needed a human resources and payroll company that could grow with us. That company is HR&P. And as laws have changed, like the Affordable Care Act, HR&P has kept us in compliance. I focus on growing Twin Eagle. I trust HR&P with the rest.

Chuck Watson, Chairman, Twin Eagle

We are the industry leader in Oil Spill Cleanup Products and have dealt with numerous Oil Spill disasters. Knowing up close what a disaster looks like we choose to avoid them in our offices. HR&P guides us through the land mines of HR, Payroll and Benefit compliance so my team can focus solely on helping our clients with their problems, and we avoid our own.

Chad Clay, Owner, CEP Sorbents

One of the best things we did for our business was to partner with HR&P. They’re the experts in human resources, payroll and benefits administration.
HR&P’s web based solutions make it easy for us to manage our employee’s needs. They also help us stay compliant with the Affordable Care Act and with “the alphabet soup” of constantly changing Governmental regulations.

Ken Dennard, CEO, Dennard—Lascar Associates

I run a restaurant, from early in the morning to late at night, our team works hard to deliver great food in a fun atmosphere.
But there’s a lot more to running a business like human resources, payroll, benefits and compliance. So we turn to HR&P.
Outsourcing to HR&P keeps us focused on our business.

Marcus Payavla, Co-Owner, Orleans Seafood Kitchen



To receive more HR articles and tips that keep you informed, sign up for our newsletter.