Form I-9 Regulations and Requirements

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The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) requires all U.S. employers to verify the identity and work authorization or eligibility of all individuals, whether U.S. citizens or not, hired after November 6, 1986. Employers are required to do this by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9, either on paper or online, for all employees.

Note: Effective May 18, 2009 the University of Minnesota uses the online version of the form I-9 and e-Verify to satisfy the employment eligibility regulations.

IRCA also prohibits employers from discriminating against any person (other than any unauthorized alien) on the basis of national origin or citizenship status in hiring, discharging, recruiting or referring for a fee, assignment, compensation, or other terms, and conditions of employment.

The I-9 Employment Verification process cannot be used to pre-screen employees, and the obligation to review documents is not triggered until a person has been hired.

The Department of Homeland Security (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) defines hired as "the actual commencement of employment of an employee for wages or other remuneration. The employee must complete Section 1 or the I-9 form by the date of hire (i.e., no later than the date on which employment services start)."

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Overview of I-9 Requirements

There are many rules and guidelines the employer must follow when completing the I-9 process.

Responsibilities—Employer and Employee

Employer Responsibilities

The employer must ensure that the I-9 form is completed on, or by the date of hire. The identity and employment eligibility documents must be examined within three business days of the date employment begins.

If the employee is unable to present the actual documents to satisfy the I-9 regulations within those three days, the employee must present a receipt for application of replacement document(s) and the actual document within 90 days. The receipt rule will be discussed at more length below.

  • Employee must show a list A item, or a list B and list C item. The list B item must show a photo.
  • Employer cannot stipulate which documents an employee chooses to show to satisfy the document requirements.
  • Employer is responsible to see that the employee completes Section 1 timely and in its entirety

    • Note: The social security number box is optional when completing the paper form. Therefore, an employer cannot require an employee to complete it.
    • The social security number box is a required field when using e-verify with the I-9 submission.
  • If the I-9 requirements are not met within three business days from the hire, the employee must cease work until the I-9 form is completed. See the Handbook for Employers - Instructions of Completing Form I-9 (pdf), pages 23 and 32, for more information.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees must provide the information requested in Section 1. Most importantly, they must attest to their status by checking the appropriate box:

  • Citizen/national of the United States
  • Lawful permanent resident, or
  • Alien authorized to work in the United States until a specific date.

Employees must sign and date Section 1 of the I-9 form when completed. The Form I-9 is not valid and cannot be accepted if the employee refuses to sign the form. No documentation from the employee is required to substantiate Section 1 information provided by the employee. 

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Review and Verification of Documents

The employer (or representative) must personally review original documents only. Photocopies (including fax copies) or numbers representing original documents are not acceptable. The only exception to the photocopy rule is a certified copy of a birth certificate.

Original Documents

The review standard used to determine the genuineness of the documents in the employment eligibility verification process is reasonableness. The document must reasonably appear genuine on its face and relate to the person presenting it.

Document Choice

An employee can choose to provide a List A document to show identify and employment authorization, or a List B document to show identity and a List C document to show employment eligibility. Documents must be unexpired. See the Handbook for Employers - Instructions of Completing Form I-9 (pdf) for a list of document choices. Note the removed documents section below for more information.

See I-9 Employment Authorization Requirements for international students, scholars and visitors for more information on other document choices that fulfill I-9 requirements for aliens.

Questionable Documents

Employers can reject documents that don't appear appropriate or genuine. Employees who present questionable documentation should be asked for other documents to satisfy the I-9 requirements.

Copying of Documentation

Although I-9 regulations allow employers to make copies of the documents presented to show I-9 compliance, the University of Minnesota does NOT require copies of the I-9 documentation with the use of the online I-9 process. For I-9s completed on paper, the University has chosen to require copies with all completed paper I-9s.

Social Security Card Issues

The Social Security Administration (SSA) currently issues social security numbers and cards to aliens only if they can present documentation of current employment authorization in the U.S. Lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees are issued unrestricted social security cards that are not distinguishable from those issued to U.S. citizens.

Some social security cards have restrictions on them and do not satisfy the I-9 requirements. If that is the case, the employee must show other documents to comply with those requirements. See I-9 Employment Authorization Requirements for more information on other documents that fulfill I-9 requirements for aliens.

Note: The social security box in Section 1 is optional when completing a paper I-9. The employer cannot compel the employee to complete that box, when the employee is completing the paper form I-9. However, the social security box in Section 1 is required when the employer uses e-verify with the I-9 submission. Also, in a recent court decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that an unsigned social security card can be used as evidence of authorized employment for I-9 purposes. (8th CA, 7-16-06)

The employer must complete Secton 2 of the I-9 within three business days of employment. The following information must be recorded on the form:

  • Document title
  • Issuing authority
  • Document number
  • Expiration date (if any)
  • Date the employment begins

Signature and Date

The person who actually reviews the original documents must sign and date the I-9 form, whether that person is the employer, or agent (see Remote Hires below). The employer (or agent) is not attesting to the legitimacy of the person's status, but rather to the fact that the documents presented appear to be genuine and relate to the person presenting them.

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Removed Documents

The following documents have been removed from the list of acceptable identity and work authorization documents and can no longer be used:

  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (List A),
  • Certificate of Naturalization (List A),
  • Unexpired Reentry Permit (List A),
  • Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (List A)
  • Form I-151 has been withdrawn from circulation and is no longer an acceptable List A document. However, Form I-551 remains an acceptable List A document 2.

Note: Expired documents, such as an expired U.S. passport, are no longer acceptable. However, there are certain employment authorization cards that may appear expired, but have actually been extended under limited circumstances by USCIS. Two such forms are the I-766 and I-551.

See the Handbook for Employers—Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (pdf) for the list of documents still acceptable for I-9 purposes.

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Receipt Rule

Amended by interim rule of February 9, 1999, the Receipt Rule explains when receipts may be used in lieu of original documents in the I-9 process.

  • If the original has been lost, stolen, or damaged, a receipt for application of a replacement document can be accepted. The person must show the original replacement document within 90 days of hire.
  • Unexpired foreign passport with I-94 is made more limiting.
  • Form I-94 with a refugee admission stamp is acceptable as a receipt for 90 days, within which the person must present a social security card (unrestricted) with a List B item, or an EAD card (Employment Authorization Card). The stamp may include a reference to Section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act rather the word "refugee".
  • A receipt for application to extend an EAD card's employment authorization expiration date is not acceptable.
  • A receipt is never acceptable for employment lasting less than three days.

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Remote Hires

When hiring a person to work in a remote location, the employer can designate an agent to carry out the employer's I-9 responsibilities. Contact the Office of Human Resources at 4-UOHR (612-624-8647; 800-756-2363 greater Minnesota) for more detailed information on how the remote hire should complete the online I-9.

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An employee who is rehired within three years of the date of the original hire (date the original I-9 form was completed) does not have to complete a new I-9 form, as long the employee is still eligible to work on the same basis as previously indicated on the I-9 form.

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Retention of the I-9 form

Employers must retain the forms I-9 in their files as long as the person is employed, and for a certain length of time after the person has left the employ of the University. The retention date of the form can only be determined once an employee has terminated. The University determines the retention date by calculating and comparing two dates (A and B). Whichever date is determined to be later, is the date until which the Form I-9 must be kept.

  • Date A: Add three years to the hire date.
  • Date B: Add one year to the termination date.
  • Whichever date is later is the retention date.

For questions or more information, contact

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