Employement Eligibility Verification | Work Eligibility

Work Eligibility

Get important rules and regulations about work eligibility in the United States.

Employer's Duty and Action Required

Employer's Duty: Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it is unlawful for employers to recruit, hire or continue to employ illegal immigrants to the U.S. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) of the U.S. Department of Justice, originally was charged with enforcing these requirements. On March 1, 2003 the agency was renamed the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At the same time, it is illegal to discriminate against work-eligible individuals (for example, if a job applicant is rejected solely because of country of origin).

Action Required: The employer must take three steps when a job applicant is hired:

  • Step 1 -- Through examination of documents, verify the applicant's right to work in the U.S.
  • Step 2 -- Attest that written proof of the right to work has been presented.
  • Step 3 -- Maintain records of steps 1 and 2.

Steps 1 and 2 must be performed using a short document specifically designed by the INS to help employers organize and preserve information which substantiates employment eligibility. The document is called Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification Form." Documents for Examination: Employers may not specify which documents they will accept from a job applicant. Scroll further down to view the range of documents acceptable to the INS, depending on whether the purpose is to establish identity, or employment eligibility, or both. The documents must be examined within 3 business days of the date employment begins. False Documents: Are employers expected to establish whether the document is authentic? N0. Employers need only verify that each document examined appeared on its face to be genuine and that the employer relied on it in good faith. The test: would the average person reasonably believe that the document is authentic? Penalties: Employment verification violations are punishable with a civil penalty of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 for each individual for whom a signed verification form should have been retained.

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Lists of Acceptable Documents



EITHER one document from the List below: (List A)

OR one of the following documents: AND (List B)

one of the following documents: (List C)

  • U.S. Passport (unexpired or expired)
  • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (INS Form N-560 or N-561)
  • Certificate of Naturalization (INS Form N-550 or N-570)
  • Unexpired foreign passport, with I-551 stamp or attached INS Form I-94 indicating unexpired employment authorization
  • Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card with photograph (INS Form I-151 or Form I-551)
  • Unexpired Temporary Resident Card (INS Form I-688)
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Card (INS Form I-688A)
  • Unexpired Reentry Permit (INS Form I-327)
  • Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (INS Form I-571)
  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Document issued by the INS which contains a photograph (INS Form I-688B)
  • Driver's license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the U.S. provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, birth date, gender, height, eye color and address
  • ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies or entities, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color and address
  • School ID card with photograph
  • Voter's registration card
  • U.S. Military card or draft record
  • Military dependent's ID card
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
  • Native American tribal document
  • Driver's license issued by a Canadian government authority

For persons under age 18 who are unable to present a document listed above:

  • School record or report card
  • Clinic, doctor or hospital record
  • Day-care or nursery school record.
  • U.S. social security card issued by the Social Security Administration (other than a card stating it is not valid for employment)
  • Certification of Birth Abroad issued by the Dept. of State (Form FS-545 or Form DS-1350)
  • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority or outlying possession of the U.S. bearing an official seal
  • Native American tribal document
  • U.S. Citizen ID Card (INS Form I-197)
  • ID Card for use of Resident Citizen in the U.S. (INS Form I-179)
  • Unexpired employment authorization document issued by the INS (other than those listed in the column for List "A")

Documents That Establish both Identity and Employment Eligibility

Documents That Establish Identity

Documents That Establish Employment Eligibility

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Answers to Some Commonly Asked Questions


Do citizens of the U.S. need to prove they are eligible to work?


Yes. While U.S. Citizens are automatically eligible for employment, they too must prove it by presenting the required documents and completing Form I-9. Citizens of the U.S. include persons born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.


Does an employer need to complete an I-9 for everyone who applies for a job?


No. Complete an I-9 only for people you actually hire. Under the Immigration Reform Act, a person is "hired" when he or she begins work.


Do I need a completed I-9 for independent contractors or their employees?


No. For example, if you contract with a roofing company to perform repairs to your building, you do not have to complete I-9s for that company's employees. The roofing company is responsible for completing the I-9s for its own employees.


What happens if an employer properly completes Form I-9, but INS discovers that the employee is not actually authorized to work ?


The employer cannot be charged with a verification violation. The employer will have a good faith defense against the imposition of penalties for knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien, unless the government can show there was actual knowledge of the unauthorized status of the employee. This assumes the employer did each of the following:

  • Ensured that employees had fully and properly completed Section 1 of the I-9 when their work began
  • Reviewed the required documents, which should have reasonably appeared genuine and to relate to the person presenting them
  • Fully and properly completed Section 2 of the I-9; signed and dated the employer certification
  • Retained the I-9 for the required period of time, making it available (if requested) to an INS inspector.

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