What is Form I-9?
Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. Form I-9 must be filled out for every employee who works for your company in the United States. The form requires that the employee present documents to you verifying their identity and authorization to work in the U.S. You must sign a statement affirming that the presented documents are genuine to the best of your knowledge.
All U.S. employers must complete and ensure proper completion of a Form I-9 for every new hire, regardless of whether they are a U.S. citizen.
If you’re not familiar with or unsure about the process and requirements around completing I-9 Forms for your employees, you should review the US Citizenship & Immigration Service's (USCIS) Employer Handbook before proceeding.
Who needs to complete a Form I-9?
All new paid employees who are physically working in the U.S. need to complete Form I-9. This includes business owners who receive wages or other remuneration.
What steps need to happen?
- Your employee must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 at the time of hire and no later than the end of the first day of paid work. Justworks collects your employees' Section 1 information during the enrollment process.
- Note: Employees’ Social Security Numbers (SSNs) will not automatically populate in Section 1. A SSN is not a required field unless the employer is participating in E-Verify. If an employee wishes to include or must include their SSN, they can enter this on the form.
- You must collect, in person from your employee, the supporting documentation they provide according to the Form I-9 instructions. You cannot require any particular Acceptable Document from any List.
- You must verify your employee’s documentation and accept any documents from the List of Acceptable Documents within three business days of an employee starting work. You are verifying the employee’s identity and the employee’s authorization to work in the U.S.
- Note: If the employee’s work will last less than three days, you must complete Section 2 of Form I-9 no later than the first day of work.
- Unless you are a qualified employer opting to use the alternative procedure (see below for additional information), you must physically examine each document. Importantly, the employee must be present when you verify their documents.
- You (the same person who verified the employee's documents) must then complete Section 2 and sign the Form I-9.
- Justworks account administrators will be prompted to complete Section 2 directly in their Justworks account, once Section 1 has been completed by the employee.
Examining Documents Remotely
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a temporary policy wherein the department deferred the requirements for employers to review Form I-9 documents in-person with new employees. This policy ended on July 31, 2023.
Effective August 1, 2023, however, all supporting documentation must once again be reviewed in person, even for remote employees, unless an employer is qualified to virtually/remotely examine employees’ documentation pursuant to DHS’ alternative procedure.
To use the alternative procedure, employers must be in good standing on E-Verify, examine and retain copies of all documents (front and back, if 2-sided), conduct a live video interaction with the employee, and create an E-Verify case if the employee is a new hire. As a reminder, E-Verify is not required for all private employers, but it is required for employers that choose to use the alternative procedure.
Employers who do not qualify for the alternative procedure may still designate an authorized representative to fill out Form I-9s on behalf of a company. The authorized representative can be any person that the employer designates who is at least 18 years old and not the employee themself. Employers are ultimately liable for any errors, fraud, or violations made by their designated authorized representatives, including personnel officers, foremen, agents, or notaries public (make sure to check state-specific requirements regarding who can act as an authorized representative). There are also companies and consultancies who will provide this service for a fee if needed.
When completing Form I-9, the authorized representative must physically examine each document presented to determine if it reasonably appears genuine and relates to the employee presenting it in person. Reviewing or examining documents virtually is not permissible.
Notaries as Authorized Representatives
If you hire a notary public to serve as the authorized representative, the notary public is acting as an authorized representative of you, not as a notary. The notary public must perform the same required actions as an authorized representative. When acting as an authorized representative, the notary public should not provide a notary seal on Form I-9.
Certain states, like California and Texas, have laws about whether or which notaries may be designated as an authorized representative for Form I-9 purposes, and you should refer to legal counsel to determine how these requirements may apply to your business.
Accessing I-9 Forms
As an administrator, you have access to the completed forms for all current and former employees through the Justworks dashboard. Go to HR > Documents to view all your employees’ completed I-9 Forms. To find an I-9 Form for a particular employee, go to the employee’s profile page and find the form stored under ‘I-9s’. The form can be downloaded as a PDF or printed as needed, though there is no requirement to print this form.
The I-9 Form will be retained within Justworks for at least the duration of the person's employment. If an employee is no longer employed, Justworks will retain their I-9 form for the required time.
E-Verify is not federally required for private employers. There are various circumstances and states in which employers are required to use E-Verify. You can read more on E-Verify here.
Employers who choose to use the alternative procedure for virtual/remote verification of I-9 documents, as described above, must use E-Verify.
If you are required to or choose to use E-Verify, you will have to set up an account and input employee and documentation information, as entered on Form I-9.
The USCIS has additional information that can help you understand your obligations as an employer in more detail.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.