I-9 forms are used to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals an employer hires. There are specific retention periods that if not adhered to can lead to compliance liability. I-9s were created when the Immigration Reform and Control Act became law in 1986. This law created two primary obligations for employers:
- Employers must not knowingly hire undocumented workers; and
- Employers must verify employment eligibility through the Form I-9 for all new hires and rehires (full- and part-time, regardless of citizenship or immigration status).
Never dispose of a current employee’s Form I-9; you must keep it for as long as the employee works for you. When an employee relationship ends, there is a required period you must keep their information on file at your company.
I-9s must be retained either one year after the date of termination or three years after the date of hire, whichever is later. This retention rule is often mistakenly interpreted, where employers believe they can destroy I-9 forms of their current employees after a three-year period. The retention period for an I-9 comes into play only after the employment is terminated.
For more information on the I-9 retention rules for employers, please contact the employment attorneys of MBM Law.
I-9 Record Retention Policy
Employers need to be aware of these following guidelines for the I-9 retention period:
- If they worked for less than two years, retain their form for three years after the date you entered in the ‘First Date of Employment’ field.
- If they worked for more than two years, retain their form for one year after the date of separation.
You may retain completed paper forms with original handwritten signatures on-site or at an off-site storage facility for the required retention period, as long as you are able to present the I-9 form within three days of an inspection request from DHS, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), or U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) officers. Make copies of the identification documents used, such as a driver’s license or social security card, and file with the I-9 form. Be sure to include these copies when disposing of the I-9 forms.
MBM’s legal team of business lawyers are experienced with dealing with government entities on behalf of employers. Call our law offices today to discuss your business’s record retention policy or other business-related legal questions you may have.
Avoid I-9 Penalties for Employers
Penalties for incorrect or missing I-9 forms can be imposed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). The amount of penalties depends upon company size and number of violations. Once you are aware of a mistake on the I-9 form, correct it immediately. Properly destroy all old records as you would any confidential information for your business. Also, disposing of files early is considered a violation of the law and can also lead to fines and penalties.
To avoid penalties and remain compliant, a periodic I-9 audit is a good risk-mitigation strategy. The Business Law attorneys at MBM partner with employers and business owners to implement standards that ensure your company is adhering to regulations and remain compliant.