When a worker is hired for a new job, the worker must show that they have the legal right to work in the United States.
As part of the new hire documentation provided by their employer, a new employee must complete an I-9 form. This document is the accepted method for employees to verify their eligibility to work in the US.
Origin of I-9
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) made US employers legally responsible for verifying the employment eligibility of all new employees. While Form I-9 is not required for volunteer or contract employees, foreign nationals with employment visas must complete the form.
How are employment eligibility forms completed?
An Employment Eligibility Form (I-9) must be completed during the hiring process for all new hires. The employer must verify the employee’s eligibility and identification documents and record the document information on the I-9 form within three days of employment.
Employers who fail to complete and maintain I-9 forms for each new hire may be subject to fines or other legal ramifications from the Department of Labor.
Employees must present original documents, not photocopies, of documentation to show that they have a legal right to work in the US As an exception; an employee may present a certified copy of a birth certificate.
If an employee cannot read or write English, the form allows a translator or legal preparer to complete it on the employee’s behalf.
Documentation Required to Prove Work Eligibility
In addition to your basic personal information, when you complete an I-9 verification services, you must provide at least one of the approved forms of documentation to prove your identity and eligibility to work in the US.
The documentation usually includes some form of photo identification and confirmation of legal status in the country and will be used as a cross-check.
Acceptable I-9 documents
There are three categories of documents you can submit. Employees must present one of the following documents from List A or one of the documents from List B, plus one of the documents from List C.
List A (documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility)
United States passport or passport card
- Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
- Foreign passport containing a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 print notation on a machine-readable immigrant visa
- Employment authorization document containing a photograph (I-766)
- Foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp
For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work only for a specific employer because of his or her status: a foreign passport and Form I-94 or Form I-94A that has the same name as the passport and an endorsement of the nonimmigrant status of the overseas as long as the support period has not expired and the proposed support does not conflict with any restrictions or limitations identified on the form
Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association between the United States and the FSM or RMI
List B (documents establishing identity only)
Driver’s license or identification card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United States, as long as it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address.
Identification card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities, as long as it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color and address.
- School Photo ID
- US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
- Native American tribal document
- Driver’s license issued by a Canadian government authority
- Voter registration card
US military card or draft record
Military Dependent Identification Card
For persons under the age of 18 who cannot present a document listed above:
- School record or report card
- Clinical, medical or hospital history
- Nursery or nursery registration
List C (documents establishing employment eligibility only)
Social Security account number card, unless the card includes one of the following restrictions: 1. not valid for employment; 2. Valid to work only with INS authorization; or 3. Valid to work only with DHS authorization
Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of local government agency of the United States, with an official seal
Certificate of Report of Birth issued by the Department of State (Forms DS-1350, FS-545, FS-240)
- United States Citizen Identification Card (Form I-197)
- Native American tribal document
- Identification card for use by a citizen residing in the United States (form I-179)
- Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security