Staying out of I-9 trouble

The rules around I-9 forms can be very specific and sometimes confusing, and since none of us is perfect, I thought I’d offer a few tips to help employers avoid a growing problem when they hire immigrants. 

Among the issues emerging for employers is a crackdown on workers who might have been approved to work in the United States for a limited period of time, for example a conference or short-term assignment, who then continue to work after it has ended.

First created as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, I-9 enforcement saw a sharp uptick in audits and fines after a revision to the form in 2013.

ICE audited more than 1,000 businesses nationwide after that update. By comparison, ICE conducted only 250 audits in 2007. With the steady growth in audits and enforcement, businesses paid $13 million in fines by 2012.

Staying compliant with deadlines is extremely important.

A new hire must complete Section 1 of the I-9 form on or before the first day of employment, while Section 2 of the I-9 must be completed by the employer within three days of the start date. Other important steps include having your policies in writing and a one person in charge of the process.

Experts also recommend semi-annual audits, preferably by a third party. That’s because if there’s an error in a company’s I-9 system, whoever created the system might be the last to notice problems.

Keep in mind that any findings made as a result of an I-9 audit, if conducted by your attorney, is protected under attorney-client privilege.

A few other pointers:

  • For anyone filling out the forms, remember you cannot use white correction fluid or black permanent marker. 
  • The person who fills out the form must be the person who signs it. 
  • Employers also must retain any pages of the form on which the employee and employer enter data.  

About the Author


Will Temby

Will has enjoyed a 20-year career in leadership positions in the hospitality and travel industry throughout the U.S. with the Hyatt, Sheraton, Hilton, Renaissance and Steamboat Ski and Resort corporations. Will received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. From 2000-2007, he served as President and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. He also served as Vice President-Special Projects for the University of Colorado Foundation from 2007 to 2009. Will is a past Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Homeland Defense Foundation and former member of the United States Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100. He is married to Nan, has five wonderful children, and enjoys coaching, traveling, hiking, golfing and skiing.