The new I-9 form: What veterinarians need to know


Learn what this important worker documentation means for your veterinary practice.

This spring, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released an updated version of its Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. And as of May 8, 2013, employers are required to start using it. The updated I-9 form is intended to be more user-friendly and includes detailed instructions for both employers and employees. It also includes changes to current sections and the addition of new sections, all in an attempt to eliminate common errors and pitfalls when filling out the forms. So what does this mean for your practice? Continue reading to find out.

What is employment eligibility verification?

First, let's cover some I-9 basics. Beginning in 1986, the Immigration Control and Reform Act was enacted to help prevent illegal aliens from gaining employment in the United States. Employers, regardless of size, are required to obtain documentation from every new hire in order to verify that employee's eligibility for employment in the United States. The term "employee" refers to full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal staff members but does not pertain to independent contractors. You do not have to obtain I-9 documentation from contract workers.

An employer must review the documents presented by each employee and attest to his or her belief that the documents are genuine by signing the I-9 form. Watch for expiration dates on documents and reject any document that doesn't seem authentic. You are not, however, responsible for guaranteeing the authenticity of the documents.

Completing the I-9 form

Employees must be given the I-9 form upon hire and complete Section 1 (with or without the assistance of a translator) on their first day of work. While a Spanish version of the form is available, it is only to be used as a reference for Spanish-speaking employees. The English version of the form must be on file with the employer for all employees, even if the employee's primary language is not English. By completing Section 1 of the form, the employee is affirming that he or she is eligible to work in the United States.

Section 2 must be completed by the employer within three days of the employee's hire date. A detailed list of acceptable documents is included on the I-9 form. Documents are divided into three categories. Documents in List A satisfy the requirement to establish both identity and employment authorization. If an employee supplies a document from this list, only one document is required. List B contains documents that establish identity, while List C includes documents that establish employment authorization. A document from List B and a document from List C must be provided together to fulfill the requirements of the I-9 form if nothing from List A is available.

Section 3 pertains to reverifications and rehires. It's used only if a worker's documentation has expired or the employee is rehired within a three-year period after termination. You also have the option of completing a new I-9 form for the rehired employee. With the updated I-9 form now in use, use that for a rehired employee rather than Section 3 of the former I-9 form.

An I-9 must also be kept on file for the practice owner unless the practice is a sole proprietorship. Sole proprietors don't need to keep I-9 forms for themselves, but they do need them for employees, just like any other veterinary practice entity type.

Retention and storage

I-9 forms must be kept on file and made available if a government agency requests access. While it's not a requirement, you can make a photocopy of the documentation supplied by the employee. If you do obtain photocopies, make sure you're consistent in photocopying the documents for all employees. Retain these copies in the same location as the employee's I-9 form. It's acceptable to retain employee I-9 forms in either paper or electronic format. Whatever method you choose, you are responsible to do the following:

How long to keep an I-9 form

> Provide an index of the information contained in the file.

> Control access and maintain detection of any unauthorized changes to the documents.

> Periodically check that the files are complete and in compliance.

> Ensure that the documents can be reproduced legibly if needed.

While you don't need to file I-9 forms with any government agency, keep in mind that the government might request the forms for review. If an agency does ask to see your I-9 forms, you must present them within three days of the request. Penalties for noncompliance with the laws can range from $110 to $1,100 for each employee whose eligibility has not been properly verified.

3 steps to ensure I-9 compliance

New I-9 forms

As of May 8, all employers are required to use the new I-9 form for every new hire. Check the lower lefthand corner of your form to identify the revision date and ensure compliance with the new protocol. Forms that are already on file for current employees do not need to be redone; however, you must continue to be aware of any expiring documentation that needs to be updated—use the new I-9 form when you perform the update. For additional information or to access the new I-9 form and instructions, visit

Alicia Foss is a talent management and HR consultant for Marsha L. Heinke, CPA. Dr. Marsha Heinke offers tax, accounting and consulting services for veterinary practices.

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