Part XII: Retaining and Storing I-9

This is Part XII of our I-9 blog series, which explains how employers can best avoid audit by ICE. In our last segment, we will be detailing the most affective methods of retaining and storing Forms I-9.

Retaining Form I-9

Employers must have a completed Form I-9 and Employment Eligibility Verification on file for each person on their payroll. The employer must also determine how much longer to keep the employee’s Form I-9 after the employee leaves.

To calculate how long to keep an employee’s Form I-9, enter the following:

Employers must retain Form I-9 until the date on Line C.

Employers are required to retain the page of the form on which the employer and the employee enter data. Copies of the employee’s documents should also be kept with the I-9. Employers may store the instructions and Lists of Acceptable Documents page as well. The I-9 may be stored on paper, microfilm, microfiche or electronically.

Storing Form I-9

Form I-9 requires the collection of personal information about individual employees. Employers should keep this in mind when determining how to retain and store completed Forms I-9. Employers should store completed Forms I-9 and accompanying documents in a manner that fits their business needs, and fits the requirement to make Forms I-9 available for inspection. Typically, employers store completed Forms I-9 and accompanying documents:

• on-site or at an off-site storage facility
• with personnel records or separate from personnel records
• in a single format or a combination of formats
• paper
• microfilm or microfiche
• electronically

No matter how you choose to store Forms I-9, you must be able to present them to government officials for inspection within three days of the date on which the forms were requested. Officers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), employees from the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices at the Department of Justice (DOJ), and employees from the Department of Labor (DOL) may ask to inspect these forms.

Storing the Original Paper Forms I-9
Form I-9 contains personal information about employees. When storing these forms, USCIS recommends that employers provide adequate safeguards to protect employee information. If an employer chooses to keep paper copies of an employee’s documents, the employer may store them with the employee’s Form I-9 or with the employees’ records.  However, USCIS recommends that employers keep Forms I-9 separate from personnel records to facilitate an inspection request.

Storing Forms I-9 on Microfilm or Microfiche
Employers may keep copies of original, signed Forms I-9 on microfilm or microfiche. Select film stock that will preserve the image and allow for access and use for the entire retention period.

Microfilm or microfiche must:
• exhibit a high degree of legibility and readability when displayed on a reader, or reproduced on paper.
• include a detailed index of all data so that any particular record can be accessed immediately.

If an officer notifies an employer of an inspection, the employer must provide the microfilm or microfiche and a reader-printer that provides safety features; is in a clean condition, properly maintained and in good working order; and is able to display and print a complete page of information. Once employers have preserved Forms I-9 on microfilm or microfiche, they may destroy the paper originals.

Storing Forms I-9 Electronically
Employers may use a paper system, an electronic system or a combination of paper and electronic systems to store Forms I-9. An electronic storage system must include:
• controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy and reliability of the electronic storage system.
• controls to detect and prevent the unauthorized or accidental creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of or deterioration of an electronically stored Form I-9, including the electronic signature, if used.
• controls to ensure an audit trail so that any alteration or change to the form since its creation is electronically stored and can be accessed by an appropriate government agency inspecting the forms.
• an inspection and quality assurance program that regularly evaluates the electronic generation or storage system, and includes periodic checks of electronically stored Forms I-9, including the electronic signature, if used.
• a detailed index of all data so that any particular record can be accessed immediately.
• production of a high degree of legibility and readability when displayed on a video display terminal or reproduced on paper.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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