Correcting I-9 mistakes four years after the fact

Q. We recently discovered a stack of I-9s dating back to 2002. The forms were signed by the employees and include copies of the employees’ driver’s licenses and Social Security cards. Unfortunately, a company official never signed the I-9s. Can we sign the forms and backdate them to 2002? If not, what should we do?

A. You should not sign and backdate the I-9s since you do not have the original documentation that was submitted by the employee in 2002. Backdating the forms would be a “false attestation,” which could subject you and your company to fines or imprisonment.

Instead of backdating the forms, we recommend that you have current employees again submit the original documentation. Your representative should then sign the I-9 when he or she reviews the documents. While not in technical compliance, in the event of an audit, your company will be in a better position to demonstrate good faith. Keep the unsigned copies of documents for your records as well.

For future reference, employers must review original documents (not copies) and sign and date the I-9 within three days of the date an employee begins employment. Employers must retain the I-9 for three years after the date the employee begins work or one year after the employee is terminated, whichever is later.