Form I-9 Compliance and the Importance of Self-Audits

Last Updated on February 23, 2023


Immigration compliance is a complicated and nuanced issue with vast requirements for employers to follow and understand. And immigration compliance and regulations are not specific to large international organizations only. Companies that operate within the United States must verify each employee’s identification through Form I-9.

What is the Form I-9?

Anyone who has ever held a job in the United States has had the experience of providing the proper documentation for an I-9. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of individuals hired in the United States.

Every single employer in the U.S. is required to make sure a Form I-9 is completed properly for each employee, and the form must be filled out regardless of the employee’s immigration status, meaning that both American citizens and noncitizens alike must have a form on file.

How Might You be Noncompliant?

Companies might be noncompliant with the Form I-9 in a few different ways. The I-9 requires an employee to present specific documents to help verify their authorization to work in the United States (see the USCIS website for a full list of the acceptable documents). If your organization does not collect the correct documentation from your employees, then your company is noncompliant. If a new employee does not provide a completed Form I-9 and provide the proper documentation within three business days of their first day of employment, then your company is noncompliant. As an employer, you are required to retain these forms for employees (even after an employee is no longer with the organization) for a designated period of time and to make the forms available for government inspection. If your organization does not retain this documentation for the required period of time, then your company is noncompliant.

 Why Should You Complete a Self-Audit?

While performing a Form I-9 self-audit may seem tedious, it can help you and your employees prepare in case officials show up onsite. Plus, it’s a good step in creating a policy within your HR department to become (and stay) fully compliant. Invest the time now to investigate whether your company is compliant and correct any problems before the government gets involved and cites you for noncompliance.

Questions to Ask During a Self-Audit

  • Do I have every current employees’ Form I-9?
  • Do I have completed forms for past employees? Note, the timeframe for Form I-9 retention is either three years from the date of hire or one year from the date of termination, whichever is later.
  • Do I have copies of acceptable identification documents for every form on file?
  • Are the forms completed correctly? (Common mistakes often include an employer forgetting to sign and/or date Section 2 of the form and an employee forgetting to sign and/or date Section 1.)
  • Did my company go through a merger or acquisition, and if so, were the new employees’ forms reviewed and validated? Mergers and acquisitions can cause major immigration compliance issues for the companies involved. Make sure to work with your legal counsel and HR department to confirm how to move forward.
  • Does my company have a policy to ensure accurate and timely completion and retention of I-9s and documentation? If not, now is the time to get a policy in place.

Interested in learning more about compliance and record keeping? Watch our webinar, On the Record: Maintaining Immigration Compliance for Your Organization, today.

[Webinar] On the Record: Maintaining Immigration Compliance for Your Organization