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Form I-9 Retention

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A review of the retention period for Form I-9 and other key documents will help HR departments ensure records are properly handled when purging personnel files over the summer.

HR departments typically review and purge personnel records during July. The retention period for Form I-9 can be confusing, so it’s important to ensure staff reviewing and purging files understand the requirements set by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Required Retention

Employers can retain Form I-9 documents in paper, microfiche, microfilm, or electronic form. Once the form has been completed, it must be kept as long as an individual is employed. Only the pages of the form containing employer and employee entered data need to be kept.

After employment has ended, the Form I-9 must be retained until the later of the following dates:

  • Three years after the date the person began work for the employer
  • One year following termination of the employee’s service with the employer

Calculating the amount of time the form must be kept once an employee is no longer employed based on the criteria above can be confusing and time consuming since each form will have a unique retention requirement. A practical approach is to keep the forms for three years after termination. This will simplify the process and allow for purging the forms in batches rather than on an individual basis.

This approach also simplifies the process for reverification of rehires. When an employer rehires an individual, the employer may update or reverify an existing form, provided the form used is the most recent revision of Form I-9 and was executed within three years of the date of rehire.

Best Practices for Handling Form I-9

HR should conduct a self-audit of all Employment Authorization forms (Form I-9s) and make sure they are properly completed and on file for all current employees. Resources for conducting a self-audit are available on the USCIS webpage I-9 Central, including the Handbook for Employers. All errors identified in this process must be fixed. Detailed instructions for correcting errors are provided in the USCIS resources.

It is also recommended that Form I-9s be kept in a centralized file, not the individual personnel folder. This will help facilitate the presentation of forms to a federal officer upon request.

Employers should ensure the most current version of the form is being used during the hiring process. The current edition of Form I-9 available on the USCIS website, dated 10/21/2019, was set to expire on 10/31/2022. USCIS states that a new edition of the form will be posted as soon as updates are adopted. In the meantime, employers may continue using the 10/21/19 edition despite the expiration date. HR Services will keep members informed of any updates to ensure continued compliance.


Additional information on completing and handling Form I-9 can be found in the HR Library topic Employment Eligibility Verification. Other resources, including a schedule of the required retention for all personnel records, can be found in the HR Library (search Personnel Records, member login required).

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April Mabry
April Mabry
Best Practices: Salary Notification Letters

April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools  since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.

Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.

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