1.0 Why Employers Must Verify Employment Authorization and Identity of New Employees

In 1986, Congress reformed U.S. immigration laws to preserve the tradition of legal immigration while seeking to close the door to illegal entry. The employer sanctions provisions, found in section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), were added by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). These provisions further changed with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996.

Employment is often the magnet that attracts people to reside in the United States illegally. The purpose of the employer sanctions law is to remove this magnet by requiring employers to hire only individuals who may legally work here: U.S. citizens, noncitizen nationals, lawful permanent residents, and aliens authorized to work. To comply with the law, employers must:

  • Verify the identity and employment authorization of each person they hire;
  • Complete and retain a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (PDF), for each employee; and
  • Refrain from discriminating against individuals on the basis of national origin or citizenship.

At the same time that it created employer sanctions, Congress also prohibited employment discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status, and national origin. This part of the law is referred to as the anti-discrimination provisions. See Section 10.0, Unlawful Discrimination and Penalties for Prohibited Practices, for more information on unlawful discrimination.

This handbook will tell you how to properly complete Form I-9, which helps you verify that your employees are authorized to work in the United States. You must complete a Form I-9 for every new employee you hire after Nov. 6, 1986, as well as new employees hired in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) on or after Nov. 28, 2009. This includes U. S. citizens and noncitizen nationals who are automatically eligible for employment in the United States.

You can download Form I-9 (PDF) and the instructions on the USCIS website at uscis.gov/i-9-central. You may also order paper forms at uscis.gov/forms/forms-by-mail or by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY: 800-767-1833). You must use the current version of Form I-9 found at uscis.gov/i-9. A revision date with an “N” next to it indicates that all previous versions with earlier revision dates are no longer valid.  

Form I-9 is available in English and Spanish. Employers in the United States and its territories may use the Spanish version of Form I-9 as a translation guide for Spanish-speaking employees, but must complete and retain the English version. Employers in Puerto Rico may use either the Spanish or the English version of Form I-9.

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