There is no specific requirement or guideline for how to store Form I-9; however, the USCIS has recommended that employers ensure adequate safeguards are put in place to protect the highly sensitive and personal information contained in the completed Forms I-9. Employers may use a paper system, an electronic system or a combination of paper and electronic systems to store Forms I-9.
When storing the original paper Forms I-9 (if that is something the employer decides to do) they can be stored with the employees’ employment records. However, it is a better practice for employers to keep the Forms I-9 in a separate file from the general personnel records of the employee. In the case of an inspection or audit, this practice will facilitate a smoother, less intrusive way to comply with the inspection request. This way, if the USCIS requests to audit your Form I-9 files, it will only need to access these forms and will not require access to personal or sensitive employee information.
It is important to note that any information requested and provided on the Form I-9 is required to be made available to the USCIS, and any information found during the audits can be used by the USCIS to review an employee’s legal status in the U.S. Because of this, it is a best practice to keep the Forms I-9 in a separate file/folder than the employees’ personal information not related to the completion of the form.
When storing Forms I-9 electronically, the electronic system must:
- Include devices to ensure the integrity, accuracy and reliability of the e-storage system;
- Include a method of detecting and preventing the unauthorized or accidental alteration or deterioration of an electronically stored Form I-9, including the electronic signature, if used;
- Include a device to maintain 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;
- Include 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;
- Include an index of all data so that any record can be accessed immediately; and
- Produce a high degree of readability when displayed on the screen or reproduced on paper.
Depending on your company’s main method of operation, the electronic system could be the best or worst way to store your documents. Many companies keep copies of these records both electronically and in paper format to ensure that they are keeping up-to-date records and complying with USCIS regulations in one way or another. 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.
If you choose to maintain a combination of paper and electronic systems to store Forms I-9, you must make sure that the system storing the electronic forms meets the system requirements laid out above and that the requirements for storing paper forms are also met.