Don’t Underestimate Form I-9

The red circles on the Form I-9 depict some of the areas in which employers commonly have errors. Ensure you have the correct version of the form, the employee inputs the date correctly (mm/dd/yyyy) and provides their signature in Section 1 (courtesy AgSafe.)

As you begin to prepare for seasonal hires, initiate a new best practice this year and review your new hire check list and required employee forms. In your new hire packet, there is one form in particular that gives countless employers issues, and the fines for administrative errors can cost companies thousands of dollars. The Form I-9 on the surface does not look complicated to complete, however there are a number of common mistakes employers make on a regular basis. In this article we will review the essential elements of the Form I-9, the most common mistakes and best practices to ensure your compliance.



The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) utilizes the Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the U.S. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of the form for each individual hired for employment in the U.S., including citizens and noncitizens. All employers must complete and retain the I-9 for every person they hire for employment after November 6, 1986 in the U.S. as long as the person works for pay or another type of payment. Form I-9 is required to be completed for part time, full time, regular, seasonal and temporary employees.


Essential Form Elements

First and foremost, before you begin filling out Form I-9, it is important to confirm you have the correct version. The date edition of the current form is 10/21/2019 and the form’s expiration date, which is 10/31/2022, can be found on the upper right-hand corner of the document. The form is divided into three sections: the first section is for your employee to complete, the second section is for the employer and the third section is reserved for rehires or reverification. The employee should fill out Section 1 at the time of hire, which should be no later than the first day that their pay begins. If the employee has literacy or language issues, an employer representative can help, but remember that anyone who assists with the preparation/translation of this form is required to fill out the “Preparer and/or Translator Certification” located below the employee signature.

In Section 2, the employer is responsible for ensuring this portion is completed no later than three business days after the employee’s first day. Additionally, as an employer, you should provide clear instruction on documentation options employees can use to comply with employment verification requirements. It is important that employees understand the Form I-9 directions and they present a document from List A or a document from List B and List C to satisfy USCIS requirements. Employers are strictly prohibited from directing employees on what type of document to present to demonstrate employment eligibility.


Common Mistakes

There are more than a dozen common mistakes employers make when completing the Form I-9. While these mistakes may seem minor, they could result in fines if USCIS were to conduct an audit.

  • Failure to fill out Form I-9 for current employees.Missing digits on dates. All dates on the form must be documented in the following format: mm/dd/yyyy.
  • Providing P.O. Box information rather than a physical address.
  • Missing employee or employer signature.
  • Failure to complete Section 2 within the three business days from the date of hire.
  • Improperly completing Section 2 documents (incomplete information or too much information, not examining acceptable documents or listing expired documents.)
  • Failure to audit Form I-9s for administrative errors on an annual basis.
  • Inability to write information requested legibly on form.
  • Failure to provide Form I-9 to ICE when requested for audit (usually within 72 hours.)
  • Illegible forms because of use of pencils or gel pens to complete. Black or blue pen colors are recommended when filling out the form. A PDF-fillable form is available for easier completion.
  • Utilizing a highlighter or white out on the form.

Another critical element of the Form I-9 involves the correct storage of these documents. Forms must be on file for all current employees and stored securely in a way the meets your business needs. Because these forms contain personal information, only authorized employees should have access to these documents. Additionally, as mentioned previously, these documents must be made available within three days of an official request for inspection by ICE.

Another frequently asked question involves how long the Form I-9 must be kept after an individual is no longer employed. If an employee worked for less than two years, then you must retain the form for three years after the date entered in as the first day of employment. However, if you have an employee who has worked for more than two years, you must retain their form for one year after the date they stopped working for you.

For additional details on the Form I-9, please visit USCIS at If you should have specific questions regarding your Form I-9 or your hiring best practices, please contact the AgSafe team at 209-526-4400 or email

AgSafe is a 501c3 nonprofit providing training, education, outreach and tools in the areas of safety, labor relations, food safety and human resources for the food and farming industries. Since 1991, AgSafe has educated over 85,000 employers, supervisors and workers about these critical issues.