Official Website of the United States Department of Homeland Security
Share This PageShare This Page PrintPrint

Is This Document Acceptable?

Q. If an employee writes down an Alien Number or Admission Number when completing Section 1 of Form I-9, may I ask to see a document with that number?

     A.  No. Although it is your responsibility as an employer to ensure that your employees fully complete Section 1 at the time employment begins, the employee is not required to present a document to complete this section. When you complete Section 2, you may not ask to see a document with the employee’s Alien Number or Admission Number or otherwise specify which document(s) an employee may present.

Q. My employee entered a compound last name in Section 1 of Form I-9. The documents she presented contain only one of these names. Can I accept this document?

     A.  DHS does not require employees to use any specific naming standard for Form I-9. If a new employee enters more than one last name in Section 1, but presents a document that contains only one of those last names, the document he or she presents for Section 2 is acceptable as long as you are satisfied that the document reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to him or her. It is helpful for individuals attesting to lawful permanent resident status who have more than one name to enter their name on Form I-9 as it appears on their Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551).

Q. My new employee presented two documents to complete Form I-9, each containing a dif­ferent last name. One document matches the name she entered in Section 1. The employee explained that she had just gotten married and changed her last name, but had not yet changed the name on the other document. Can I accept the document with the different name?

     A.  You may accept a document with a different name than the name entered in Section 1 provided that you resolve the question of whether the document reasonably relates to the employee. You also may wish to attach a brief memo to Form I-9 stating the reason for the name discrepancy, along with any supporting documentation the employee provides. An em­ployee may provide documentation to support his or her name change, but is not required to do so. If, however, you determine that the docu­ment with a different name does not reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to her, you may ask her to provide other documents from the Lists of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9.

Q. An employee has attested to being a U.S. citi­zen or U.S. noncitizen national on Section 1 of Form I-9, but has presented me with Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, or “green card.” Another employee has attested to being a lawful permanent resident but has presented a U.S. passport. Should I accept these docu­ments?

     A.  In these situations, you should first ensure that the employee understood and properly com­pleted the Section 1 attestation of status. If the employee made a mistake and corrects the at­testation, he or she should initial and date the correction, or complete a new Form I-9.If the employee confirms the accuracy of his or her initial attestation, you should not accept a “green card” from a U.S.citizen or a U.S.passport from an alien. Although you are not expected to be an immigration law expert, both documents in question are inconsistent with the status attested to and are, therefore, not documents that reason­ably relate to the person presenting them.

Q. May I accept an expired document?

     A.  No. Expired documents are no longer accept­able for Form I-9.However, you may accept Employment Authorization Documents (Forms I-766) and Permanent Resident Cards (Forms I-551) that appear to be expired on their face, but have been extended by USCIS.

For example, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries whose Employment Authorization Documents (Forms I-766) appear to be expired may be automatically extended in a Federal Register notice. These individuals may continue to work based on their expired Employment Authorization Documents (Forms I-766) dur­ing the automatic extension period specified in the Federal Register notice. When the automatic extension of the Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766) expires, you must reverify the employee’s employment authoriza­tion

Back to Top

Q. How can I tell if a DHS-issued document has expired? If it has expired, should I reverify the employee?

     A.  Some INS-issued documents, such as older versions of the Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551), do not have expiration dates, and are still acceptable for Form I-9 purposes. However, all subsequent DHS-issued Permanent Resident Cards (Forms I-551) contain two-year or 10-year expiration dates. You should not reverify an expired Alien Registration Receipt Card/Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551). Other DHS-issued documents, such as the Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766) also have expiration dates. These dates can be found on the face of the document. Generally, Employment Authorization Documents (Forms I-766) must be reverified upon expiration.

Q. May I accept a photocopy of a document pre­sented by an employee?

     A.  No. Employees must present original documents. The only exception is that an employee may present a certified copy of a birth certificate. 

Q. May an employer review the documents that the employee is presenting via webcam to complete Form I-9?

      A. When completing Section 2 of the Form I-9, the employer or authorized representative of the employer must physically examine each original document to determine if it reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the employee presenting it. Document examination or review via webcam is not permissible.

Q.  When does a school ID expire? For example, my employee presented a school ID when completing Form I-9 that was issued for the 2010-2011 school year. It does not have a date which it was provided to the student. Currently the school year is 2011-2012, but we are still in 2011. Is this document still acceptable?

     A.  If the document contains no expiration date other than the school year, the school ID expires at the end of the school year printed on the document.

Q.  Is the Armed Forces of the United States Report of Transfer or Discharge (DD-214) an acceptable document for Form I-9?

     A.  The DD-214 is an acceptable List B #5 document for Form I-9.

Q.  Is an unexpired driver’s license that has been revoked by DMV still an acceptable List B document?

     A.  In general, if the revoked driver’s license is unexpired and appears to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting it, then it is an acceptable List B document.  However, if the revocation invalidates the driver’s license as proof of identity, then the revoked license would not be acceptable as a List B document.

Q.  My employee has just presented documents to me to complete Form I-9 that seem to have the same picture on them, but do not look like my employee. I am afraid that if I reject these documents that I suspect are fraudulent, legal action could be taken against me. What should I do? Can I report this employee?

     A.  Employers are not expected to be document experts. Employers may reject a document presented by an employee if the document does not reasonably appear to be genuine or to relate to the person presenting it. If an employer suspects a document to be fraudulent, he or she may report the incident to ICE by calling toll-free at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.

Q.  Is a birth certificate issued by a hospital an acceptable List C document?

     A.  In order to be acceptable for Form I-9 purposes, the document in question must be an original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority or outlying possession of the United States, bearing an official seal. USCIS cannot comment on state law and the authority a hospital may have to issue birth certificates. Usually, a hospital does not have this authority.  We suggest that the state be contacted to find out whether the hospital in question is authorized to issue birth certificates.

Q.  Is an unexpired, cancelled passport an acceptable document for Form I-9?

     A.  A U.S. Passport is acceptable for Form I-9 purposes if it is unexpired.  Therefore, a U.S. passport that has been cancelled may still be acceptable for Form I-9 purposes, provided the document is unexpired. The U.S. Department of State cancels otherwise valid and unexpired U.S. passports when issuing renewal passports.

Q.  May I accept an unsigned passport for Form I-9 purposes?

     A.  Yes. An unsigned passport is acceptable for Form I-9 purposes as long as the document reasonably appears on its face to be genuine and relate to the person presenting the document.

Q.  My new employee just handed me an employment authorization document that is not yet valid but will be valid in a few weeks. Can I accept this document and complete Section 2?

     A.  No. Employers cannot accept documents that will be valid on a future date. In addition, employees cannot begin employment until authorized to do so. For example, if the Designated School Official (DSO) has authorized curricular practical training for a foreign student, the student cannot begin work until the start date approved by the DSO. Employers should reject documents that will be valid in the future and ask the employee to provide other acceptable documentation from the List of Acceptable Documents.

Q.  Is an unsigned Social Security card valid?

     A.  Yes. A signature on the card is not required for the card to be valid. You may accept an unsigned Social Security card as long as the card reason­ably appears to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting it.

Q.  Is a laminated Social Security card valid?

     A.  It depends. If the card states on the back “not valid if laminated,” then the laminated Social Security card is not valid. The Social Security Administration (SSA) advises cardholders not to laminate Social Security cards. Metal or plastic reproductions of Social Security cards are not acceptable for Form I-9 purposes.

Q.  How can an employer verify an employee’s Social Security number?

     A.  If an employer has signed up to use E-Verify, then E-Verify will confirm that an employee’s name and Social Security number (SSN) match. E-Verify is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, Verification Division, and the Social Security Administration.

In short, employers submit information taken from a new hire's Form I-9 (including the SSN through E-Verify) to the SSA and USCIS to determine whether the information matches government records and whether the new hire is authorized to work in the United States.

SSA also provides Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS), one of the services offered by Business Services Online. Available at http://www.ssa.gov/employer/ssnv.htm, it allows registered users (employers and certain third-party submitters) to verify the names and Social Security numbers of employees against the SSA’s records.

If the name and SSN do not match SSA’s records, the employer is prohibited to take any adverse action (such as laying off, suspending, discriminating against or firing) against the employee. Any employer that uses the failure of the information to match SSA records to take inappropriate adverse action against a worker may be in violation of state or federal law.

Remember that an initial SSNVS mismatch does not mean that an individual is not work-authorized. Information received from SSNVS makes no statement regarding a worker's immigration status. It means only that there is an initial mismatch, which may be based upon various causes including errors in government databases.

Restrictions on using SSNVS:

  • While the service is available to all employers and third-party submitters, it can only be used to verify current or former employees and only for wage reporting (Form W-2) purposes.
  • Do not use SSNVS before hiring an employee.

If SSNVS issues a mismatch, the employer should compare the failed SSN with the employment record. If the employer made a typographical error, he should correct the error and resubmit the corrected data. If the employer’s record and the employee's Social Security card match, the employer should give the employee an opportunity to resolve the mismatch. The employer should correct the records and resubmit the corrected information to the SSA.

Back to Top

Q.  Is a Social Security card with the annotation “For Social Security and Tax Purposes Only” valid for employment?

     A.  Yes. There are currently 50 different versions of the Social Security card, all of which may be valid for employment. Visit the Social Security website to see the chart that lists the changes in the SSN card through the years.

Cards that are NOT acceptable List C documents may include any one of the following annotations:

  • NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.
  • VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH INS AUTHORIZATION.
  • VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.

Q.  Is the Transit Worker Identification Card (TWIC) an acceptable List C document?

     A.  No. However, the TWIC card is an acceptable List B identity document.

Q.  Does a state-issued enhanced driver’s license qualify as a List A document?

     A.  No, the enhanced driver’s license is a List B document.

Q.  The U.S. Department of State discontinued the Certificate of Report of Birth (DS-1350) in December 2010. It also began issuing a new version of the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240) to replace the Certification of Birth Abroad (FS-545) in January 2011. Will the new Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240) be included on List C of the Lists of Acceptable Documents? Will the Certificate of Birth Report (DS-1350) and Certification of Birth Abroad (FS-545) still be acceptable for Form I-9 purposes?

     A.  USCIS may not add or subtract documents from the List of Acceptable Documents for Form I-9 until it makes changes to the regulations following proper rulemaking procedures. USCIS is in the process of evaluating the List of Acceptable Documents for a possible rulemaking. The Certificate of Birth Report (DS-1350) and Certification of Birth Abroad (FS-545) will remain acceptable for Form I-9 purposes.

Q.  My new employee says he is a foreign student who is allowed to work for any employer because of economic hardship. Can he work for me?

    A.  Most F-1 students are limited to employment directly related to their area of study. Employers should check the category code and guidance on our website before hiring a foreign student.

There are F-1 students who may be authorized to work due to severe economic hardship.  These students are not limited in the type of employment they may accept. The student’s Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766 card with photograph) will contain the category code C33, which lets you know the student can work for any employer. 

Q.  Can an employer accept an expired driver’s license with a paper document from the state department of motor vehicles (DMV) stating that the paper document serves as a temporary license?

    A.  Yes. A state-issued temporary driver’s license is an acceptable List B document provided it contains a photograph or identifying information including name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address. If the temporary driver’s license has conditions, such as that the expired license must accompany the temporary driver’s license for it to be valid, then those conditions must be followed.

Q.  What constitutes a “draft record” for Form I-9 purposes? 

    A.  Any document issued by the Selective Service showing that a man has registered with the Selective Service System is considered a draft record on List B for Form I-9 purposes. Men who have registered since 1983 will have a registration acknowledgment card from the Selective Service. For more information on the Selective Service registration acknowledgment card, visit the Selective Service’s website at www.sss.gov.

Q.  May an employee present an extension for the receipt they presented when he or she originally completed Form I-9?

    A.  Under Form I-9 rules, the receipt rule permits an employee to present a “receipt” in lieu of the document itself that satisfies the document presentation requirement for a limited period of time. There are 3 types of “receipts:”  (1) a receipt for the application for a lost, stolen, or destroyed document (90-day receipt); (2) Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94/94A) with a temporary I-551 stamp and photograph (expiration date on stamp); (3) Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94-94A) with refugee admission stamp (90-day receipt).  After expiration of the receipt validity period, the employee must present the actual document for which the receipt was presented. Presenting another receipt at the end of this period is not permissible. 

Q.  Are schools required to put the employer’s name on page 3 of the Form I-20 in order for the student to be authorized to work for that specific employer?

    A.  Yes, the designated school official is still required to enter the employer’s name on a student’s Form I-20 per the regulations governing F-1 nonimmigrant employment.

Q.  Is a Trusted Traveler card, or SENTRI card an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes?

    A.  SENTRI cards, also known as Trusted Traveler cards, are acceptable under List B, #2 as an ID card issued by a federal agency, namely Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Q.  Is a birth certificate issued by the Panama Canal Zone in 1968 an acceptable List C document?

    A. Acceptable birth certificates are those issued by a State, county, municipal authority, or outlying possession of the United States bearing an official seal. A birth certificate issued by the Panama Canal Zone in 1968 is not an acceptable List C document because  the zone is not an outlying possession of the United States as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(29).  The employer should reject the document and ask that the employee present a different List C document. 

Q. Where can I find an example of a Native American Tribal Document?

    A. Each of the 564 federally recognized tribes may issue its own unique tribal document based on private tribal information. USCIS does not have examples of these tribal documents nor can it provide guidelines on specific tribal documents. 

Q. May I accept a permanent resident card with no expiration date and a picture of the holder as an infant?

    A.  Older green cards (Forms I-551), called Resident Alien cards, were issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, between January 1977 and August 1989. These cards are peach in color and contain the bearer’s fingerprint and photograph. They do not have expiration dates and are valid indefinitely. If an employee presents this type of card to complete Form I-9, you must accept the card, as long as it reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the individual presenting it. If you cannot determine whether the card relates to the individual presenting it, you may reject the document and ask for another acceptable document. 

Q.  Are employment authorization documents stating “Fingerprint not available” acceptable for Form I-9?  

    A.  Yes, these are still acceptable documents for Form I-9.  “Fingerprint not available” means either that the card was issued before fingerprinting or the press print may have been waived. 

Q.  Is a Mexico Consular ID Card an acceptable document for the Form I-9? 

    A.  The Mexican government issues consular ID cards to Mexican nationals living in the United States. These cards are not acceptable proof of identity for Form I-9 purposes.

Q.  Is a Certificate of Live Birth an acceptable List C document?

    A.  A Certificate of Live Birth may qualify as a birth certificate (No. 4 on List C of the Lists of Acceptable Documents) if it is an original or a certified copy that is issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or territory of the United States and bears an official seal. Versions of birth certificates can vary greatly based on the issuing authority and year of birth.

Q.  Is the Nexus card an acceptable document?

    A.  The NEXUS card is an acceptable List B #2 document.

Q.  How does a person who is not a U.S. citizen possess a Native American tribal document?

    A.  In order to be acceptable for Form I-9 purposes, a Native American tribal document should be issued by a tribe rec­ognized by the U.S. federal government. Some lawful permanent residents, aliens authorized to work, and noncitizen nationals may be members of federally recognized tribes, and may therefore possess a Native American tribal document issued by such tribes. Because federal recognition of tribes can change over time, to determine if the tribe is federally recog­nized, please check the Bureau of Indian Affairs website at www.bia.gov.

Q.  Is an expired Permanent Resident Card with a sticker on the back extending it for 6 months (and the sticker is still valid) a List A or List C document? Does this card, if acceptable, need to be reverified? 

    A.  A permanent resident card with a USCIS-issued sticker extending its validity is a List A document and acceptable for Form I-9 purposes. Employers do not reverify permanent resident cards (Form I-551) and should not reverify the employment authorization of this employee.

 In general, employers are not required to reverify the employment eligibility of a lawful permanent resident except in limited circumstances, such as when an employee presents either an expired green card with Form I-797 extending the individual’s status for 1 year or a foreign passport with an I-551 stamp indicating temporary evidence of status for Form I-9 purposes.

Q.  Is the Certificate of Naturalization an acceptable Form I-9 document?

    A.  Yes. The Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or N-570) is an acceptable List C, #8 Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

Q.  The Certificate of Naturalization states you may not make a copy of it.  As an employer, I make copies of all documents for Form I-9. May I make a copy of the Certificate of Naturalization?

    A.  Yes. The employer may make a copy of the Certification of Naturalization for the purposes of Form I-9. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act governing the Form I-9 process, the copying of documentation is permittednotwithstanding any other provision of law.

Back to Top

Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/20/2013