Follow these best practices for completing Form I-9

March 7, 2017|Kailee Wahler

All employers in the United States must complete Form I-9 properly or they may face penalties. Avoid these common mistakes.

All U.S. employers must ensure a Form I-9 is completed properly for each individual hired for employment in the United States. A revised version of Form I-9 went into effect January 22, 2017, and a number of changes were made.

Know what to look for on your Form I-9

It can be common to find errors on these forms, and there can be fines for any issues uncovered. Follow these best practices to ensure your Forms I-9 are filled out accurately.

Section 1, completed by the employee and/or translator

Pay special attention that the following are completed:

  • Name, other names used, address and date of birth
    • PO boxes should not be used in any of the address sections
  • Form is signed and dated
  • Section 1 fully completed by the first day of employment
  • Employee should check “I did not use a preparer or translator,” if applicable
  • If the employee did use a translator, you can still be fined for any mistakes the translator may make. If a translator is used, the translator should check the “A preparer and/or translator assisted the employee in completing Section 1” box
    • Translator must enter his or her name, address and signature in the translator certification box (if applicable)
    • Date needs to be entered in the translator certification box

Section 2, completed by the employer

As the employer, you are also required to complete the form fully and accurately.

  • Enter the employee’s last name, first name, middle initial and citizenship status in the “Employee Info from Section 1” portion at the top of Section 2
    • Enter the appropriate number in the Citizenship/Immigration Status box that corresponds with Section 1. For example, enter “1” if the employee checked “citizen of the United States.”
  • Enter an acceptable List A document or acceptable List B and List C documents on the form
    • Ensure the documents are listed under the appropriate column
  • Enter the document title, issuing authority, numbers and expiration date for the documentation
    • If no expiration date, enter “N/A”
  • Enter your business title, name and address
  • Enter the date of hire
  • Sign, date and enter your first and last name and title (or that of your authorized representative)
  • Complete Section 2 by the third business day after the date the employee began employment

Section 3, completed by the employer

This section should only be completed if an employee is rehired within three years after their initial departure or if an employee experiences a biographical change, such as a name change.

  • Enter the document title, number and expiration date for the acceptable documentation presented
  • Enter the date of rehire, if applicable
  • Enter the employee’s new name, if applicable
  • Sign, date and enter your name in the certification

Other considerations

  • Present the employees with the “list of acceptable documents” so the employee can choose what document(s) to provide to the employer
    • The employer cannot mandate which combination of documents the employee needs to present
  • Check that the date entered in Section 2 as the date of hire matches the date listed in payroll records
  • Write out all words, limit the use of abbreviations
  • Use the current version of Form I-9
  • Never backdate
  • Ensure all employees are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion
  • The Spanish Form I-9 can only be completed by employers in Puerto Rico. However, it may be used as a translation guide for Spanish-speaking employees in the U.S. The English version must be filled out.

Correct any mistakes on your Form I-9

Mistakes must be corrected properly. As an employer, you may only correct errors in Section 2 or Section 3. If you discover an error in Section 1, ask your employee to correct the error.

To correct the form:

  • Draw a single line through the incorrect information
  • Enter the correct information
  • Initial and date the correction

Do not use correction fluid to fix errors. If needed, you can complete a new Form I-9 to correct multiple errors within the section, then staple the new version to the original. Include a note in the file as to why you made changes to an existing Form I-9 or completed a new Form I-9.

Storage and retention

Forms I-9 must be kept for three years after hire date or one year after termination, whichever is longer. 

Forms I-9 must be kept separate from all other employee files. Place all Forms I-9 in a binder or separate file (preferably in alphabetical order) in a locked area or cabinet. If you would prefer to save all forms electronically, that is an option as long as you ensure that the proper security and controls are in place. A combination of physical and electronic storage is also acceptable.

If you are audited, you must provide all forms within three days to government officials.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides Instructions for Form I-9 and publishes a more comprehensive Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9.

Schenck’s HR Consulting team can assist with training on the new form and filling out each section properly.

For more information or assistance, contact Kailee Wahler or any member of Schenck’s Human Resources Consulting team at 800-236-2246.


Kailee Wahler, human resources consultant with Schenck, builds relationships with clients and advises businesses on a wide variety of human resources matters. She provides one-on-one guidance and counsel, along with the ability to analyze and offer solutions to everyday HR challenges.