Everyone needs to fill out the I-9 form whenever they get a new job. Every business must file these forms, and there’s nothing they can do to avoid it. Even though this is one of the most common federal forms, many businesses still get in trouble for filling them out wrong. That’s why you should know the most common I-9 form misconceptions—so that you can avoid these problems whenever possible. It’s best to avoid the mistakes that result in fines and penalties in the first place.
Some of the most common things about the form that causes confusion are the deadlines that come with it. Many employers miss the deadline because they misunderstand when the form is due. It’s true that employees don’t need to fill out the second part of the form or provide documentation until the third day of paid work. The same isn’t true for the employer. The deadline for the I-9 is the end of the employee’s first paid workday. If the employee misses the three-day deadline or if the company misses the first-day deadline, the company can incur heavy fines and face a lot of legal problems.
The second part of the I-9 form requires documentation and proof from the employee that they can legally work in the United States. Luckily, the employee doesn’t need to provide this proof with the original copies. They can choose to send over a scan or picture of the proof. However, the business still needs to check the original form to authenticate it. The company doesn’t need to keep the original proof, but it does need to see it to make sure it’s not fake.
A common mistake a lot of people make is assuming the I-9 form doesn’t change every year. Barring a few exceptions, the I-9 form is updated every year. The old forms expire and are no longer usable for new hires. However, the I-9 form does sometimes see extensions. Businesses must check to make sure they’re using the most current version of the I-9. The date can usually be found at the bottom right of the form.
Another practice for which businesses often get in trouble is over-requesting documentation forms. The I-9 is very important, as it verifies a potential new employee. As such, employers should ask for documents as the forms require. The problem comes when employers ask for more than what is their legal right. To protect employees, the government limits the documents for which a business can as proof to fill out the I-9. It can be tempting for a business to ask for a lot of documentation to ensure it has what it needs, but doing so is against the law, and it can get the company in trouble.
There are many misconceptions about whether or not a business needs to keep the I-9 form. Legally, a business must keep the I-9 file of an employee for at least three years before it can destroy the form. The only thing that can change this date is if a business fires that employee. In that case, the business must keep the form for one full year after the termination date or three years after the hire date of the employee, whichever is longer. There’s also a proper disposal method for I-9 files that businesses should follow to protect the personal information in the records.
An unfortunate myth surrounds the penalties for when a company breaks the laws or makes a mistake in regard to the I-9 form. Many people believe that the penalties are light and forgiving, but they are quite the opposite. Small infractions may only carry a light fine, but the government usually fines for mistakes on every form. Bigger infractions can cost a lot of money and even carry jail time. It’s best that businesses make sure to complete every form properly to avoid any legal ramifications.
Everyone believes there’s no chance they’ll ever face an audit, but this isn’t true. The government doesn’t just audit places it suspects of hiring ineligible employees; it also audits places at random to ensure that all industries and businesses are following the law. Although these audits check for employees that a business shouldn’t have hired, they also look for any mistakes on the forms. In fact, most fines relate to incomplete forms rather than bad hires.
Many businesses use E-Verify services to help with the hiring of new employees, as it confirms their eligibility for work. However, even if the service follows E-Verify compliance, it doesn’t replace the need to fill out I-9 forms. E-Verify is a separate service from the I-9 form, and it doesn’t share its database or confirmation with the government. Although the service can be very useful in hiring an individual, companies must make sure they still file I-9 forms to avoid any repercussions.
As you can tell, there’s a lot of laws and potential risks in a business filing its own I-9 forms. At the very least, filing each one while managing all these laws and ensuring there are no mistakes can be time consuming. That’s why many businesses choose to outsource their I-9 forms to another company that makes it their priority to file the I-9 forms for that business. This is an investment in limiting any mistakes that could end up costing the business down the line. An audit can cost millions, even if no major infractions were broken. Outsourcing to one of these services means hiring someone who knows these laws and who can help a business navigate them without worry.
These are just the most common I-9 form misconceptions; there are plenty more myths and bad practices that can cause a lot of grief in an audit. That’s why businesses need to be very careful when filling out I-9 forms. They don’t want all the hassle and potential money loss and jail time that comes with simple mistakes. So, businesses must make sure they follow all the form instructions very carefully—or outsource to a company that will.