A Small Piece of the HR Puzzle With Big Risks: I-9 Mistakes to Avoid

Form I-9 has only two pages – and contains a lot of opportunities for error. Learn to help avoid these common (and surprising) mistakes before they create problems!

HR departments are like a puzzle – a 1,000 piece puzzle – where critical pieces can’t be missing. While new hire paperwork may seem like a small piece of the puzzle, when it comes to HR regulations, it could be one of your biggest risks, especially Form I-9. Experience has shown employers of all sizes have long struggled to complete the form on time and correctly – with errors often proving difficult to catch. And as fines are increasing, sometimes even the smallest mistakes in your records can add up to a significant hit to your bottom line.

Although the Form I-9 has only two pages to complete, there are multiple areas for critical errors to occur. Let’s walk through the pieces of the puzzle where you have an opportunity to take better control of your I-9 records.

Leaving Blanks

Common sense would say there are some fields on Form I-9 that it may make sense to leave blank. What if someone lives in a house, not an apartment? Do they really need to fill out the apartment number field? YES! If there is no information available, it’s best to make sure the employee at least puts N/A in the field. Here are a few fields to watch out for when it comes to leaving things blank that shouldn’t be:

  • Apartment Number: This field needs to be filled with N/A if there is no apartment number.

  • Other Last Names Used (if any): This field needs to be filled with N/A if there is no maiden name or other last name used.

  • Social Security Number (SSN): When an employee chooses to provide a Social Security card as the List C document, the employer must list the SSN number in Section 2.

  • Document Expiration Date: If a document (i.e., passport, driver’s license, etc.) has an expiration date, it must be included.

  • Date of Hire: If the employee’s first day of employment is missing, the I-9 is considered incomplete.

Making Matches

Sometimes two puzzle pieces look so similar you can’t tell the difference unless you have a keen eye. A critical eye to make sure fields match on both Section 1 and 2 of Form I-9 could help to prevent mistakes. Here are two fields to watch for in Section 2:

  • Employee Name: The name at the top of Section 2 must exactly match the full name in Section 1.

  • Citizenship/Immigration Status: The documents provided by the new hire should match the status provided in Section 1. For example, an individual attesting to be a citizen of the United States in Section 1 of Form I-9 should not present Form I-766 as a List A document.

Incorrect Information

While it may seem self-explanatory to make sure all of the information is correct on an I-9, there are two areas that are often overlooked:

  • Today’s Date on the Signature Line: An employee’s signature date must be on or before the date of hire. If the employee’s signature date is after the hire date, then the I-9 is considered late.

  • Preparer and/or Translator Certification: An employee cannot be a preparer on their own Form I-9. If they are not using a preparer or translator, then the new hire should check  the box, “I did not use a preparer or translator.”

We get it. Keeping track of all 1,000 pieces of the puzzle is difficult enough without making errors. Take a look at these and more common mistakes on our I-9 infographic to help you and your team avoid future pitfalls. 

If you are looking to phone a friend to help put the puzzle together by alleviating the burden of Forms I-9 while getting back to running your business, review our I-9 Management suite of services. They are designed to help make completion, storage, and maintenance of your I-9s easier and more streamlined, including:

  • Section 1 Completion

  • Section 2 Verification

  • Section 3 Rehires and Reverifications

  • Remote Section 2 and 3 Verification

  • Notifications and In-App Prompts

  • Ongoing Records Maintenance

Ask about our products and services today to find out how our automated I-9 Management service combined with our nationwide network of trained I-9 Anywhere® completers can help keep you stay in better control of your I-9s.

The information provided is intended as general guidance and is not intended to convey any tax, benefits, or legal advice. For information pertaining to your company and its specific facts and needs, please consult your own tax advisor or legal counsel. Links to sources may be to third party sites. We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.