Can an employer request specific documents for the I-9?

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Q: I am a new HR Representative working in a growing tech company.  I report to the CFO.  He doesn’t seem to know a lot about HR.  Last week, he told me that we can ask new hires for specific documents “to make it easier for us” as part of our I-9 compliance process.  My question is can we ask for specific forms of ID?  Why are many options listed on the I-9 form then?

A: You have good instincts.  The answer to your question is no, no and no.  A triple no.  As the employer you cannot request specific documents, simply because they might be more familiar to you.

At the top of the I-9 form, there is a statement which cautions employers against this very act.  The form reads: “It is illegal to discriminate against work-authorized individuals.  Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) an employee may present to establish employment authorization and identity.  The refusal to hire or continue to employ an individual because the documentation presented has a future expiration date may also constitute illegal discrimination.”

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services provides a link on their website with sample documents.  A company representative is not required to be an expert in these documents.  An employer IS required to physically examine the documents and ensure that they appear to be genuine, an original version and related to the person presenting the document.  Here is the link which provides some sample documents, which may be presented to you.

Additionally, the I-9 should be completed on the first day of employment.  The document should be finalized within three days.  Sometimes a new employee may forget to bring documents to work on the first day of employment.  The employer must retain completed I-9 forms, either a paper version or an electronic copy. Copies should be retained in a secure manner, since these forms contain confidential information.  If you make a mistake on an I-9 form, avoid using “white-out” or a similar correction fluid.  Instead, cross out the error and enter the correct information with your initials next to it.  Finally, a great resource for “all things I-9” is a handbook for employers, published by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Visit

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.