Part 2: Form I-9 – Completing and retaining key information

By - October 27, 2016

In part one, we discussed the basics of I-9’s, enforcement and penalties. In part two, we’ll outline key information needed when completing and retaining I-9 forms.

It is important to remember, that the employer representative certifying the examination of the documents by their signature on the I-9 form must examine original documents, not copies! The document must “reasonably appear,” to be genuine and relate to the person presenting it.

Employers should also understand that they cannot specify the document(s) the employee must present for the purpose of completing their I-9 form, but instead must allow the employee to choose the document(s) they will provide from the list of documents included in the I-9 form instructions.

Another challenge employers face is the storage and retention of I-9’s. Only the pages in which the employee and employer enter data are required to be maintained. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services states I-9 forms can be maintained on paper, microform or electronically. The requirements for maintaining documents electronically are very specific and include control requirements for storage, to prevent and detect “unauthorized or accidental creation,” additions, alterations, deletions or deterioration of completed forms and an indexing system.

Employers retaining paper I-9’s may want to consider maintaining them separately from personnel files not only to secure data from breaches that could result in identity theft, but for the ease of access in the event of an audit and for destruction.

I-9’s have defined retention requirements. Employers should have an I-9 for every current employee hired since November 6, 1986. After termination, employers are required to maintain the I-9 for either one year past date of termination or three years past date of hire, whichever is longer.

It is critical that businesses engage in audits of their I-9 forms, practices and retention obligations in advance of a visit from enforcement authorities. Employer audits can be self performed or can be provided by consultants or attorneys. Additionally, staff responsible for the I-9 process should be provided I-9 training on an annual basis.

ICE continues to make it clear that employer enforcement activity will continue. Employers need to be aware that even the most incidental of error, such as the entry of a post office box, a missing or incorrect or date in an incorrect format can be costly.

RSM’s team of Human Resources Consultants can assist in reviews of I-9 forms, strategies for correction and training team members on proper technique and timing for completing forms. To learn more about how RSM can assist you with your other business needs, contact RSM’s management consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.

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