In order to be lawfully employed in the United States, an employee is required to provide their employer with documentation showing their eligibility to work in the U.S. Form I-9, which was first introduced by the Immigration Reform and Control Act or 1986 (IRCA), is required for every new employee, regardless of national origin or U.S. citizen status. The I-9 verifies an employee’s eligibility, and if the employer fails to verify an individual’s identity, they will be subject to penalties.

With the progression of national security concerns, the importance of verifying workers is taken very seriously. Federal and state laws address employee documentation, and violation penalties have increased in severity. Not only does employee documentation concern immigration, but also taxation issues and the employment of minors.

What Types of Documents Must an Employee Provide Their Employer?

The federal Form I-9 is mandatory for all employees, and is usually used in conjunction with the E-Verify system. This software cross-checks the document with other government records, and its use is mandatory for certain types of employment.

In addition to the I-9 Form, which all newly hired employees must complete within three days of hire, there are other forms of documentation that an employee must provide, including:

Documents that Establish Identity and Employment Eligibility:

  • U.S. Passport;
  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship;
  • Certificate of Naturalization;
  • Permanent Resident Card;
  • Unexpired foreign passport with Form I-94;
  • Unexpired Unemployment Authorization Card;
  • Unexpired Reentry Permit;
  • Unexpired Temporary Resident card;
  • Unexpired Refugee Travel Document; or
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Document from the Department of Homeland Security with a photo.

An employee may establish their identity by providing one document from List B and one document from List C that establishes employment eligibility.

List B (Identity Verification):

  • State-issued driver’s license or ID card;
  • Federal ID card with photo;
  • School ID with photo;
  • U.S. Military Card, military dependent’s ID card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card;
  • Native American tribal document; or
  • Canadian government-issued driver’s license.

List C (Employment Eligibility):

  • U.S. Social Security Card;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Certification of Birth Abroad (Form FS-545 or Form DS-1350);
  • U.S. Citizen ID Card;
  • Native American tribal document;
  • Resident Citizen ID card (Form I-179); or
  • DHS-issued employment authorization document.

What are the Legal Penalties for Violating Employee Documentation Requirements?

The penalties for violating employee documentation requirements vary and are dependent on the offense. Civil fines are common, and criminal penalties may ensue if there is a pattern of violations. Other penalties may include:

  • Employers may be barred from government contracts
  • In cases of discrimination, a court order may be issued for the payment of back pay, or a court order may be issued requiring the employer to hire the person who was discriminated against
  • Loss of employment
  • Incarceration

For employers who are required to utilize the E-Verify system, failure to do so may result in disciplinary action, such as revocation of the employer’s business operating license. If caught, employers who hire undocumented workers will be held accountable. The close connection between employment documentation and immigration requirements could pose problems for non-U.S. citizens who fail to show proper documentation, and may even lead to deportation.

Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer for Employee Documentation Issues?

If you are experiencing any employee documentation issues, contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible. The consequences attached to these issues can be severe, and an experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, and guide you in terms of satisfying the legal requirements. Your lawyer will also represent your best interests in court in the event of legal proceedings.