The Importance of Destroying Obsolete Form I-9 Records

The Importance of Destroying Obsolete Form I-9 Records
May 15, 2023

All employers must process applicants through the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) steps, and part of this is maintaining the completed I-9 forms for a specific period. However, many employers do not shred the outdated forms. Failure to properly dispose of these documents can leave them vulnerable to compliance liabilities. Furthermore, employers must act carefully when disposing of records, as they cannot retrieve them once removed.

Many employers do not purge old Form I-9s. Instead, they retain these forms far longer than necessary, often until inspections approach. In such cases, the government will inform a company of the upcoming inspection and allow them three business days to prepare the necessary I-9s and additional documentation.

As a result, companies will not have enough time to dispose of unnecessary I-9s. Failure to purge these forms will make them available for inspection. As such, the government can review and consider these when determining fines and penalties against the employer.

Employers must retain I-9s for one year after terminating an employee or three after hiring, whichever date is later. Employers often misinterpret this rule to mean they can dispose of current I-9s after three years. However, this is not the case. The retention period applies after an employee’s termination only. Though the rule applies equally to all employees, sometimes employers must hold onto Form I-9s longer due to litigation.

When employers decide to purge old I-9 forms, the company must have a protocol to dispose of the documents securely. This security measure protects them from unauthorized exposure. As such, employers should consider storing electronic and physical Form I-9 copies.

Employers should also ensure they retain the forms for the correct time frame. If an employer receives a notice of inspection by ICE and realizes they disposed of Form I-9s early, they will suffer appropriate penalties for non-compliance.

Though employers could correct this mistake by completing new forms, they may still encounter verification penalties due to completing the forms late. Regardless of the situation, employers found not compliant could face penalties on average of about $2,300 per Form I-9. That said, employers must purge obsolete Form I-9s to decrease potential liability.

The best way to ensure compliance is to ensure completed and accurate Form I-9s during the hiring process. The easiest way is to use an electronic I-9 management system. This system guides employers through the process and safely and securely stores the forms.

When it comes to your employees, automation makes eligibility verification quick and simple. Ensure compliance today with I-9 Compliance.