The Importance of Properly Retaining Form I-9

In order to keep your corporation compliant with federal law, it is vital to perform an Employment Eligibility Verification or Form I-9. However, this isn’t always easy as filling out an I-9 can be difficult, and it is easy to make mistakes.

There are actually 1,200 regulations covering this form, and the instructions for this form cover 15 pages. All this can make correctly filling out an I-9 seem impossible. But, with a lot of effort and maybe a bit of help, it can be done. So, next, we will discuss what you are required to do with the forms once you’ve filled them out. We cover some of the rules for retaining, storing, and disposing of I-9 forms.

How Should I Keep I-9s?

You have a number of options for how to keep I-9s. You can store them on microfiche, paper, electronically, or on microfilm. Also, they can be kept in different formats. Additionally, you can store them onsite or offsite. However, you do need to have them available within three business days if a government official requests them. Although, you don’t need to retain the instructions or any pages not written on.

If you choose to store the I-9s electronically, you are required to have certain controls in place. Controls must be in place that maintains the reliability and integrity of the system and bar unauthorized creation, alteration, or deletion of the I-9s and the electronic signatures on them, along with having a program that evaluates the system. There also needs to be controls that make sure an audit trail is in place should any changes be made to the forms.

How Long Do I-9s Need to Be Retained?

You need to keep an I-9 on file for any employee that you hired in the United States after November 6th, 1986. For employees in the CNMI, the applicable date is on or before November 27th, 2009. You need to keep the I-9 on file as long as the employee is working for you. Once an employee no longer works for you, you need to keep the I-9 for three years after the date of hire or for a year after the employee no longer works for you, whichever occurs later. 

The USCIS does explain how you can calculate how long you need to retain a former employee’s I-9 form.

  • If an employee works for you for less than two years, you need to keep the form for three years after the starting date of employment marked on the form.
  • If an employee works for you for more than two years, you need to keep the form one year after the end of their employment.

After you have kept the forms for these amounts of time, you need to dispose of the forms.

Properly Retaining I-9 Forms

There are things you should do to safely retain your I-9 forms, such as keeping I-9 forms separate from the personnel records of employees. Typically, I-9 forms are kept in a file that is only accessible by Human Resources personnel. Supervisors and managers should not have routine access to these files because of the protected information they may contain.

Employer Takeaways

There are many more regulations on how I-9 Forms need to be kept and stored than we can cover here. The best way to store these files is to use an electronic data management system that can make it easy and prevent compliance issues. However, this should give you a basic idea of how this information should be managed and the importance of getting it done right.