Peeking-eyes400x200Sooner or later, a client will ask to see an associate’s completed I-9 form – or even all the completed I-9s for a particular job. The bad news is that you’ll have to tell them no. The good news is that you’ve got the federal government backing you up on that.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, only the employee, the employer of record (that’s you!) and government agencies can see a completed I-9. Officially, your clients are third parties to the form, so they can’t see it.

What can I do instead?

You can issue a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stating that you comply with all E-Verify procedures. Because E-Verify determines the same information on the I-9, this MOU will demonstrate that you’re following the proper procedures. MOUs aren’t done on a piecemeal basis, though; it’s best to have a completed MOU on your website and refer clients to that web page.

What if I show a client one or more I-9s?

That increases your exposure to investigations from the Department of Homeland Security (people you generally don’t want to engage with). You can incur fines of $110-1,100 per I-9 for document abuse. And if you violate E-Verify rules or do the MOU improperly, you could be debarred from using E-Verify – which would make it pretty hard to hire anyone if you’re in a state that requires E-Verify.

What should I tell my client if they insist?

Have them talk to your legal counsel, who will give them this same information, but it will have a lot more weight. You can also refer them to this Technical Assistance Letter from the Office of Special Counsel, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice.

What if they ask to see other citizenship-, employment- or authorization-related documents?

By and large, the answer to those questions is “nope.”

The Civil Rights Act and Immigration Reform Control Act state that most clients can’t see an associate’s official citizenship status. (Employers at military bases, nuclear sites, US Export Control Law areas and employers who require government-issued secret clearance can ask to see this, but they’re the only ones.)

You are not allowed to release an associate’s W2 form, either. If a client is checking to see that a particular employee has worked for them/you, you can show them the employee’s paycheck register, with their Social Security Number redacted.

When in doubt, remember: you’re the official employer, so you get access to those documents. Everyone else, besides the employees themselves, is a third party.

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