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Completing and Keeping Employee I-9s


All employers are required by U.S. law to verify identity and employment authorization using the I-9 Form for ALL employees within three days of their start date. They may be completed on paper or electronically. Employers must have the I-9s available in case they are requested by government officials for inspection. Employers are required to keep the completed I-9 forms on file for three years after the date of hire or one year after employment termination, whichever is later.

We recommend keeping all I-9 forms in one easy to access location. You can physically store paper I-9s or you can also store them electronically. You are permitted to store them in an off-site location, so long as you are able to present them for inspection within three business days if they are requested. If you choose to store them electronically, your electronic storage system must ensure that the forms are not altered or deleted without authorization and you must have controls that ensure you have an audit trail so that you can track any changes to the form since its creation. You should have a policy and procedure to ensure that they are secure, like you would patient records.

Along with the I-9 forms, you will need to store copies of their employee’s documents that were presented as verification (IDs, drivers licenses, passports, SS cards, etc.). Also, the government recommends keeping the I-9s separate from other employee files to facilitate a possible inspection and to limit access to unnecessary sensitive information by people who may have access to other personnel records.

It will be helpful to keep a binder or electronic file that contains a copy of the most recent Handbook for Employers and Form I-9 instructions (which are available on the USCIS website) as well as a spreadsheet that tracks any expirations of visas or reverifications that will need to be done. File the terminated employee’s I-9s separately from the active ones so that you can determine when they are able to be destroyed. It is helpful to file the active I-9s alphabetically and the terminated employees chronologically by the retention date when you will no longer need to keep them on file.


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