The Immigration and Nationality Act's 274A section requires that employers have an I-9 form, or Employment Eligibility Verification form, for all employees, U.S. citizens and not. There are best practices that can help you organize your I-9 forms, from where to place them to who should oversee them.
Here are eight tips for making sure your I-9 policies run smoothly, compiled with the help of Mona Movafaghi, an immigration attorney with New Hampshire-based Wiggin & Nourie P.A.
> Create a reminder system.
Have a reminder system in place so that when an employee's visa is due to expire, you make sure you inspect the replacement document with the new date, which shows they can continue to work. Also, at that time, make sure you fill out Section 3 of their I-9 form, which calls for updates. If you need to verify it a third time, you can do it on a new form, but don't throw out the original form. Simply attach the two.
> To copy documents or not?
Lawyers are split on whether to copy employees' employment verification documents, but Movafaghi leans toward it. Some say that when you make copies, you could land yourself in trouble if the documents could be interpreted as fake.
However, “in my opinion, it's a good idea to copy the document,” she says, because it shows good faith, and it proves that you were shown the document.
“But copy only what you need. If they have a passport, that's enough,” she says. “Don't start asking for more; that can be discrimination.”
> Be consistent.
If you decide to make copies of documents, be consistent.
“Everyone's needs to be copied,” Movafaghi says, or no one. If you decide to change your policy, have it written down, post it and make sure that going forward, everyone is treated the same.
> Attach copies to the original.
Should you decide to make copies, attach the copy to the original I-9. Otherwise, it can be perceived as discrimination, because birthdates and other personal information are on the materials.
> Keep I-9s together.
Keep the I-9s together and not in employment files. Movafaghi suggests three-ring binders that are organized by month and year. That way, when an employee terminates, you can go back to the date of hire, put at the top when the termination occurred and place the I-9 in a termination binder under the date when it can be thrown away.
> When destroying I-9s, make sure to properly destroy them.
When it's time to get rid of an I-9, do it.
“Otherwise, it can be a liability if you made mistakes when it was filled out,” Movafaghi says. “Everyone thinks they did a great job filling them out, but what if they didn't? Some people keep them forever. Why do you want to do this? There is nothing good that will come out of keeping them.”
> Know who to train.
Make sure more than one person is trained to handle I-9s, even at a small company.
“What if you hire someone and that person [who handles the I-9s] isn't in the office?” Movafaghi asks.
The people who handle I-9s need to be trained and there needs to be a procedure manual.
> Do a periodic self-audit.
For a larger organization, do a sample audit, and if there are inconsistencies, you may want to execute a full audit and at least conduct further training. If changes are made on the I-9s, use a different color pen, include the name of the person making the correction and the date. Don't destroy an incorrect I-9 and do not backdate.
“It wouldn't hurt to have your attorney come in and help you,” Movafaghi says.