For How Long Should Employers Retain the Form I-9?

For How Long Should Employers Retain the Form I-9

Employers often mark summer as the time to review and purge unnecessary documents, such as personnel files. This annual purge typically takes place in July and involves evaluating Form I-9s. Due to the complexity of I-9 regulations, the Human Resources department must familiarize itself with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requirements.

Employers use Form I-9 in the employment eligibility verification process to verify an individual’s ability to work in the United States. Federal regulations require employers to complete and retain these records for every employee hired, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Once completed, employers can keep the forms in several ways: microfilm, paper, electronic form, or microfiche. 

After completing Form I-9, employers must hold onto the documents throughout the worker’s employment. The USCIS mandates businesses to dispose of the records after a specific time: three years after the hire date or one year after the employee’s termination, whichever is later. It is crucial for employers to routinely dispose of these forms to avoid penalties and fines from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspections.

Determining how long an employer must keep an individual’s Form I-9 has proven confusing and led to frequent infractions with ICE. For example, some companies have assumed they could dispose of an active employee’s Form I-9 three years after their hire date. Employers should ensure their Human Resource departments understand that the disposal timeframe applies to terminated employees only.

Human Resource departments should have a system that organizes which Form I-9s they can and cannot keep. For example, they could have a terminated employee section to hold the associated Form I-9s. Once collected, they should also consider noting the one-year-after-termination date and three-years-after-hire date somewhere easy to access. They could write these dates on sticky notes on Form I-9s, excel sheets, or other easy-to-find sources.

This organization would make disposal more manageable and, in some cases, allow them to quickly reverify Form I-9s as needed. Once organized, Human Resource departments should consider performing regular self-audits. Regularly scheduled self-audits would prepare the company for ICE audits and allow them to correct discovered errors before ICE.

Unfortunately, completing Form I-9 has proven challenging for many employers. The best way to ensure correctly filled I-9s is by using an electronic I-9 management system. This system guides employers through the process, stores the forms and documentation, and sends alerts when steps are required to maintain compliance.

Streamline your hiring process with an automated employment eligibility verification and ensure compliance today with I-9Compliance.