If your business has more than four employees, you probably have to comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This federal law requires you to verify both the identity and work authorization of all your new workers.
While there are exceptions, you usually have three days after an employee’s start date to examine documentation and complete your section of the I-9. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, though, your employees must complete the first section of their I-9 forms by the end of their first day of work.
Retain I-9 forms for all employees on your payroll
You should have I-9 forms for every employee you hired after November 6, 1986, which is the day the IRCA went into effect. You do not, however, have to obtain I-9 forms for volunteers, provided they are truly volunteers. You also do not need to complete or retain I-9 forms for independent contractors.
Retain I-9 forms for a period after employment
After your employees no longer work for you, you continue to have a legal obligation to retain their I-9 forms. The post-employment retention rule is simple, fortunately. You must keep an employee’s I-9 for one year after his or her last employment date or three years from his or her hire date, whichever retention period is longer.
Recognize your exposure
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the authority to fine your business between $234 and $2,322 for any missing I-9 forms. If the DHS determines you have knowingly hired unauthorized workers, you may pay higher fines or even face criminal charges.
Ultimately, by coming up with an I-9 retention policy that complies with federal law, you can minimize your company’s legal exposure.