Verifying Employee Eligibility to Work

What is my legal obligation as an employer to verify an employee’s right to work in the U.S.?

Before hiring a new employee, employers are required to ensure an employee is eligible to work in the United States.  Knowingly hiring illegal employees or failing to inquire as to an employee’s immigration status could result in legal fines and other penalties.  Employee eligibility is typically determined through completion of the Form I-9, along with confirming evidence as to the employee’s employment authorization.  

Form I-9

Form I-9 is a federal form used to verify the identity of an employee as well as the employee’s employment authorization.  All United States employers, regardless of their field or size, must ensure completion of a Form I-9 for each new employee.  Form I-9 must be completed for both citizens and noncitizens.

The Form I-9 is three pages long and must be completed by the employee and employer.  On the form, an employee will be asked to attest to their employment authorization status and provide the employer with evidence of this status.  It is then the obligation of the employer to review the evidence provided and determine whether the documents reasonably support the employee’s right to work.  
Documents that can be used to demonstrate an employee’s right to work include:

  • A U.S. passport
  • A Permanent Resident Card • Foreign Passport with a temporary I-551 stamp 
  • Employment Authorization Document with a photograph 
  • A foreign passport along with a Form I-94 

Form I-9 requires that the employer list the employment authorization and attest to the validity, as best he or she can tell, of the presented documents.  The form requires that the employer attest, under penalty of perjury, that the employee is authorized to work in the United States to the best of their knowledge.  It is critical that all employers review the Form I-9 and put policies in place to ensure hiring personnel adequately review employee documents that prove employment authorization. 

Hiring undocumented immigrants can result in immense fines and potentially even criminal penalties.  However, employers cannot discriminate against potential new employees on the basis of their citizenship or immigration status.  Employers should consult with an immigration attorney for assistance with the hiring of immigrants to ensure proper compliance with the law. 

If you should have any questions or need more information about the ways in which U.S. Immigration and Nationality Laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please contact the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group – VISASERVE – U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers by e-mailing us at or by calling us at 201-670-0006 (x107) or by visiting our Law Firm’s website at