The Importance of Purging Old Form I-9s

Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by G. T. HR

In the increasingly complex and compliance-focused world of human resources, Form I-9 – the Employment Eligibility Verification Form – plays a critical role. It’s a required document for every employee working in the United States, helping to affirm their eligibility to work. However, a less discussed but equally crucial aspect of this process is purging old Form I-9s. Regularly clearing outdated forms is essential for organizational efficiency, legal compliance, and protection against unnecessary risks.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to maintain Form I-9 for every employee, either for three years after the date of hire or one year after the employee’s employment ends, whichever is later. Once these periods lapse, employers can safely dispose of these forms. Failure to do so can lead to unnecessary scrutiny and potential fines during audits. Purging old Form I-9s helps organizations remain compliant with these federal regulations.

Decreased Liability

Maintaining outdated Form I-9s exposes employers to unnecessary legal risk. During an audit by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), each error in a Form I-9 can result in a fine, regardless of how long ago the form was filled. Errors can include both procedural mistakes, such as incorrect or missing information, and substantive errors, like failing to verify documents properly. By purging old forms, employers effectively limit their potential liability.

Improved Organizational Efficiency

Storage space, be it physical or digital, costs money. Retaining outdated I-9 forms that no longer serve a compliance purpose can become an administrative burden and a drain on company resources. Regularly purging old Form I-9s can free up storage resources and improve overall organizational efficiency.

Enhanced Data Security

Every Form I-9 contains sensitive information that could be harmful if it falls into the wrong hands, including Social Security numbers and photocopies of identification documents. By retaining old forms, organizations increase their exposure to potential data breaches. Regularly disposing of Form I-9s once they’ve served their purpose helps enhance the security of employee data. You can also increase security by maintaining the Form I-9s in an online HRIS system such as MyHIRE. An HRIS allows you to determine who has access to the information based upon their logins and eliminates physical access to the forms.

Better Preparedness for Audits

ICE can request to inspect an employer’s Form I-9s with just three days’ notice. In the event of such an audit, the time and resources needed to review and prepare all forms can be substantial. By keeping only the necessary forms either physically , employers can streamline the audit process and reduce the risk of errors or omissions being discovered.

Purging Old Form I-9s – A Best Practice

The strategic purging of old Form I-9s is an essential component of responsible employment practices. This action not only ensures compliance with immigration laws but also reduces potential liability, improves efficiency, enhances data security, and facilitates better preparedness for audits.

However, employers should approach the purging process carefully. An organization should develop a consistent, legally compliant procedure for maintaining and purging these forms, taking into account both federal requirements and any applicable state laws. It is important that you consult with HR professionals, such as MyHRConcierge, that can help ensure the regulations are properly interpreted and followed. Regular training and review can help ensure all necessary staff understand and properly execute these procedures, promoting ongoing compliance and protection against potential risks.

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