Verifying Work Authorization with the Form I-9

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Did you know that Federal law requires every employer to verify that every one of its employees has work authorization? Every. Employer. Regardless of the size of the company, the number of employees, and even if you know your workers are US citizens! So if your company has 1 employee or thousands of employees, the company must verify that every single worker has employment authorization on the Form I-9. This verification must be done within 3 business days of the start date of the employee. The best practice is just to do it on the first day – that way if something goes wrong, you have two days to still get it done on time.

How does a company comply with this requirement? By completing the Form I-9. This is a fairly short form available for free on the USCIS website here: The employee completes part of the Form I-9, and the employer completes the other part. The employee provides their name, address, social security number, contact information, and then checks a box to say how they are authorized to work – US citizen, permanent resident, etc. The employee then signs and dates the form. The employer then examines the employees documents that show their authorization, and makes sure they are one of the acceptable documents based on Homeland Security’s list of acceptable documents. The employer puts the information from those documents on the form I-9, puts the first date the employee worked, and signs and dates the form along with their title and company information. The employer then saves the actual paper form – not just a digital copy.

Making sure you get these forms done correctly is critical. The Department of Homeland Security can come into your business at any time, and inspect your forms to make sure that you are complying with the requirements. An ICE Officer will show up at your door, give you a notice of inspection, and you will be required to produce your forms within three days. If you have not completed the forms, or they are completed incorrectly or missing information, there are substantial fines that ICE can and will impose on your business. If you are found to have employed workers who do not have employment authorization, the fines are even larger.

In 2018, ICE issued 5,200 audit notices to businesses around the country, leading to arrests and millions of dollars in fines for non-compliance.

So this is the bottom line – every employer is required to verify the work authorization of every employee.  The cost of the verifying is low, but the cost of not doing it right is huge, and can cost your business a lot of money.

If this requirement is news to you, or you are concerned that your company may not have your I-9s done right, call our office today! We can do a basic I-9 audit of your business. We will look at your current system, review your forms for the last three years, and make recommendations for improvements. We can do a training for you or your HR professionals on how to establish a system, or how to complete the forms properly. Get legal advice now, and get ahead of the problem. Submit an inquiry, call our office at 716-393-9878, or email Buffalo immigration lawyer Julie Kruger directly at Our extensive experience focused specifically on immigration law allows us to craft unique and creative solutions to each case we accept. We love helping our clients achieve their Dreams Without Borders!