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What Should Employers Do When I-9s Aren’t Filled Out Completely?

by Emily Hobbs-Wright

Q: We have 40 stores, and sometimes the I-9s we receive aren’t filled out completely. If just a date is missing (not verification of documents or a signature), can we e-mail the store and ask for the date and fill it in ourselves, or do we need to send the forms back to be completed? I know the IRS can be a stickler over I-9s, and we want to be in compliance.

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A: It depends which section of the I-9 form contains the missing information. Section 1 of the form, which is completed by the employee, requires that the employee indicate her immigration status in the United States. She completes Section 1 under penalty of perjury. Therefore, any corrections to this section must be made by the employee.

If there is missing or inaccurate information in Section 1, the recommended approach would be to send the I-9 to the store where the employee works, request that she make the correction in different colored ink than was used when the form was initially completed, have her initial and date the change, and then have the store return the corrected form to your office.

Section 2, on the other hand, is to be completed by the employer and verifies that you have examined the original documents establishing the employee’s employment eligibility. If there are omissions or mistakes in this section, you should send the I-9 back to the store and have the store representative make the corrections. The usual approach would be for the representative to include any additional information that’s necessary in different colored ink, date and initial the change, and send the I-9 back to you. The corrections should be made by the employer representative who originally completed the I-9. For example, if Section 2 is missing the employer’s signature, a person who didn’t review the original documents presented for verification couldn’t sign the I-9 because he wasn’t the one who examined the documents.

Emily Hobbs-Wright is an editor of Colorado Employment Law Letter and an associate at the law firm of Holland & Hart, practicing in the Denver office.