Part 3 of 3: Conducting I-9 Audits


Have you double checked lately to determine if the I-9 forms you have on file are up to date and compliant?  Give yourself piece of mind by brushing up on the requirements and avoiding a formal I-9 audit from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE. Over the last three months, this 3-part series has covered:

  1. Fundamental facts on I-9 forms
  2. Introduction to free E-Verify system
  3. This month:  Review of your current I-9 files, are they compliant?  How to perform an internal I-9 audit that will guarantee you pass a governmental ICE audit.  

Step 1: Gather All I-9 Forms on File

Employers must check to see that there is a Form I-9 on file for every current employee who performs work for the employer in the United States. Current employees who have no Form I-9 on file are the highest priority in your audit, as their eligibility to work in the United States should be verified as quickly as possible.

With that said, please note, any employee hired before Nov. 6, 1986, and is still employed with the company is not required to have a Form I-9.  In addition, employers should not collect a Form I-9 from volunteers, independent contractors or consultants.  


Step 2: Obtain I-9 Forms for Employees Who Are Missing an I-9

Communication with the employees who are missing a Form I-9 should be firm. Employers should explain that the Form I-9 must be completed under federal law and that the employee will not be able to continue working for the organization if he/she cannot provide these documents. Copies of all communications sent to employees who are missing I-9s should be kept in the I-9 audit file.

Organizations should establish a due date for employees to provide their missing documentation. If an employee does not provide the required documents within the appropriate time frame, the employer should either terminate his/her employment or place the employee on a leave of absence.

Employers must view the originals (not copies) of their documents. Current dates should be used when completing the Form I-9. The date of hire is the employee’s actual date of hire, which may have been years earlier. Employers should document all internal audit notes and keep them in the audit file to show that the employer is making a good faith effort to be in compliance.

If employees are not be able to find their documents the employee can present a receipt for a lost, stolen or damaged document, however, that is only acceptable for 90 days.  


Step 3: Correct Errors

Employers should have two (2) files of I-9s; one for current employees and one for terminated employees.

Employers should make a list of the I-9 forms that contain errors. This will become the audit log showing the employer is making a good faith effort to ensure Form I-9 compliance. The log should contain three columns: employee’s name, the error(s) and the actions that were taken to rectify the error. As employers work through each incorrect I-9, they can use the USCIS Handbook for Employers to help them determine how to correct each error.

Below is a table that lists frequent Form I-9 errors and tips for correcting those mistakes.    


Common Error   Tip for Correction
Required information (e.g., name, address, signature) is left blank.   In Section 1, the employee should complete the blank field(s) and initial and date with the current date. If documents or a signature is missing in Section 2, a new I-9 is needed; if just the hire date is missing, the employee can correct and initial and date the change. If documents or a signature is missing in Section 3 (when required), a new Form I-9 is needed.
Documents for Section 2 are written in wrong columns.   The employer should either strike through the incorrect information and write the corrected information and then initial and date (current date) the correction; or draw arrows from the information to the correct column heading, and initial and date. Correction fluid or black marker may not be used—the original wording should be readable.
The Form I-9 is so flawed that it does not make sense (i.e., copies of documents do not match those listed on the form).   A new Form I-9 should be completed, using the current date.
Section 3 is not complete.   For many employees, this section will be blank. This section needs to be completed only during reverification when an employee’s work authorization expires or the organization rehires an employee, and under current guidelines the employee meets the conditions to be able to use the original Form I-9.


In some instances, there may be so many errors that using the original I-9 would be prohibitive. In those instances, the employee should complete and sign a new I-9 using the current date (but the correct hire date should be entered in Section 2). The employer must verify employee’s employment eligibility documents in Section 2. The original form should be stapled to the new I-9. Again, the employer should write a memo or document in the audit notes explaining why there are two I-9 forms.


Step 4: Terminated Employee I-9 Forms

Once an employee is terminated from employment, employers are required to retain I-9s for three years after the employee’s date of hire, or for one year following his or her date of termination, whichever date is later.  


Step 5: Complete the Audit

As corrections are made and missing I-9s begin to come in, an employer’s task will be to organize the I-9s and clearly document the steps it took during the audit.

And finally, internal I-9 audits should result in documented changes in practices, not just corrections to the forms. Not understanding the difference between correcting I-9s and correcting practices leading to I-9 violations is one of the mistakes employers make in handling I-9 forms.

In addition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Handbook for Employers, USCIS also has a section on its website titled I-9 Central, which provides additional information on the entire I-9 process. Anyone conducting an I-9 audit should keep these resources handy as they answer many questions regarding the proper completion of the Form I-9.

Please let me know if HR On-Call, LLC can help conduct an I-9 audit in your business or sign you up for E-Verify. Call Susan Arnold at 515-401-2233 or email at  


Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC
p. 515.401.2233

A little more about us: Susan Arnold, owner and lead HR Consultant at HR On-Call, LLC. Susan has 20+ years of HR experience and provides a HR presence to business organizations without the overhead expense of a full-time employee. Susan helps business owners improve employer/employee relationships and allows them to focus on their business while resting assured that they are in full compliance with state and federal law. Areas of expertise:

  • Reduce Employer Risk and Liability
  • Customized Employee Handbooks
  • Performance Reviews
  • Improve Employee/Employer Relationships
  • Background Checks
  • Personality Assessments
  • Guaranteed EEO Compliance
  • Employee Retention
  • Recruitment / Hiring
  • Employee Discipline/Discharge

Susan is passionate about her customers and listens to their needs. If you are interested in any of the details above or would like more information about her services, please contact Susan! If you have questions on how your specific policy should read or need help navigating a certain instance, contact HR On-Call, LLC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *