I-9 Compliance For Nonprofit Organizations

Maintaining legal compliance is a crucial aspect for any organization, including nonprofit entities. In this article, we will explore the topic of I-9 compliance specifically as it relates to nonprofit organizations. Understanding the intricacies of I-9 compliance is essential for nonprofit leaders to ensure they meet the requirements set by the U.S. government. By familiarizing themselves with the obligations and best practices, nonprofit organizations can navigate this complex area of law with confidence and peace of mind. Throughout this article, we will address common questions related to I-9 compliance for nonprofit organizations, providing concise and helpful answers to assist you in achieving and maintaining compliance.

Buy now

Understanding I-9 Compliance for Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations, like any other employer, have a responsibility to comply with various employment laws and regulations. One such requirement is I-9 compliance, which refers to the process of completing and maintaining Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for each employee. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of I-9 compliance for nonprofit organizations, explaining its importance, outlining the basic steps in completing each section of the form, and discussing special considerations and best practices.

What is I-9 Compliance?

I-9 compliance entails the proper completion and maintenance of Form I-9, which is used to verify an employee’s identity and employment authorization. This form must be completed for all employees, including U.S. citizens, as well as noncitizen nationals, permanent residents, and foreign individuals authorized to work in the United States. I-9 compliance helps to ensure that organizations hire and retain only individuals who are legally authorized to work in the country.

Why is I-9 Compliance Important for Nonprofit Organizations?

I-9 compliance is crucial for nonprofit organizations for several reasons. Firstly, failing to comply with I-9 requirements can result in significant penalties, which can have a substantial financial impact on an organization. Nonprofit organizations often operate on limited budgets, making it essential to avoid unnecessary fines and penalties.

Secondly, maintaining I-9 compliance helps to ensure a fair and legal workforce. By verifying employees’ work authorization, nonprofit organizations can avoid unintentionally employing individuals who are not permitted to work in the United States. This helps to promote compliance with immigration laws and protect the organization’s reputation.

Lastly, I-9 compliance is a legal requirement. Employers, including nonprofit organizations, are legally obligated to complete Section 1 of Form I-9 on the employee’s first day of work and complete Section 2 within three business days of the employee’s start date. Failure to do so can result in fines and potential legal consequences.

Potential Consequences of Noncompliance

Nonprofit organizations that fail to comply with I-9 requirements may face various consequences. These consequences can include civil penalties, criminal charges, and reputational and legal risks. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for conducting audits and inspections to ensure employers’ compliance with I-9 regulations. If violations are found during an audit, the organization may be subject to civil fines ranging from $230 to $2,292 per violation.

In cases involving the knowing hiring or employment of unauthorized workers, nonprofit organizations may face criminal charges, including fines and imprisonment. Additionally, noncompliance can lead to negative publicity and damage the organization’s reputation, potentially impacting its ability to attract volunteers, donors, and funding.

It is, therefore, crucial for nonprofit organizations to prioritize I-9 compliance to avoid these potential consequences and maintain a legal and reputable workforce.

I-9 Basics: Completing Section 1

Who Must Complete Section 1?

Section 1 of Form I-9 must be completed by the employee on or before their first day of work. Both citizens and noncitizens, including U.S. nationals and aliens authorized to work, must complete this section.

How to Complete Section 1?

In Section 1, employees are required to provide personal information such as their full name, date of birth, address, and Social Security number. They must also indicate their citizenship or immigration status and, if applicable, provide documentation details, such as an Alien Registration Number or Form I-94 number.

Acceptable Documents for Section 1

To establish their identity and work authorization, employees must choose and provide appropriate documentation from the lists of acceptable documents provided in the instructions for Form I-9. These lists include documents that establish both identity and employment authorization, documents that establish identity only, and documents that establish employment authorization only. Employees should carefully review the instructions to ensure they provide the correct documents.

I-9 Basics: Completing Section 2

Who Must Complete Section 2?

Section 2 of Form I-9 must be completed by the employer or an authorized representative after reviewing the employee’s documents. The employer must complete this section within three business days of the employee’s first day of work.

How to Complete Section 2?

In Section 2, the employer or authorized representative must examine the employee’s original documents in-person to verify their identity and employment authorization. The employer must record the document title, issuing authority, document number, and expiration date (if applicable). Additionally, the employer must sign and date Section 2.

Verification of Identity and Employment Authorization

When examining the employee’s documents, the employer should ensure that they reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the employee presenting them. The documents should establish both the employee’s identity and employment authorization. If a document does not reasonably appear to be genuine or relates to the employee presenting it, it should not be accepted.

Click to buy

I-9 Basics: Completing Section 3

When Should Section 3 be Updated?

Section 3 of Form I-9 must be completed when certain events occur that require an update to an employee’s work authorization. These events include the expiration of an employee’s employment authorization document, the rehiring of an employee within three years of their original Form I-9, or when an employee’s name or Social Security number changes.

How to Complete Section 3?

In Section 3, employers must review the employee’s original documents and record the document title, document number, and expiration date (if applicable). They must also provide the date of rehire (if applicable) and their signature and date.

Reverification Process

When an employee’s employment authorization document expires, the employer must reverify the employee’s work authorization by completing Section 3 of Form I-9. This involves examining the employee’s new document(s) and recording the required information, similar to the process outlined in Section 2. Employers must also complete Section 3 if an employee’s name or Social Security number changes.

Special Considerations for Nonprofit Organizations

Volunteers or Unpaid Interns

Nonprofit organizations may engage volunteers or unpaid interns to assist with their operations. While these individuals are not considered employees for the purpose of Form I-9, nonprofit organizations still have an obligation to comply with relevant employment laws. It is advisable for organizations to establish policies and procedures for engaging volunteers or unpaid interns, ensuring that they adhere to applicable labor and immigration laws.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Recipients

Nonprofit organizations may also hire individuals who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). These individuals have temporary work authorization but may require periodic renewal of their employment eligibility. Nonprofit organizations should be aware of the specific requirements and deadlines associated with DACA, as well as any changes in government policies that may impact DACA recipients’ work authorization.

International Employees or Contractors

Nonprofit organizations that employ or contract with foreign individuals should take additional steps to ensure compliance with immigration laws. These individuals may hold different visa statuses, and it is essential for the organization to understand the limitations and requirements of each status. Nonprofit organizations should also be mindful of potential changes in immigration policies that may affect their international employees or contractors.

Establishing I-9 Policies and Procedures

Nonprofit organizations can establish effective I-9 policies and procedures to ensure consistent compliance. This involves designating an I-9 Compliance Officer who will oversee the organization’s I-9 compliance efforts and serve as a resource for employees. The officer should stay updated on changes in I-9 regulations and provide training to staff members responsible for completing and maintaining I-9 forms.

Designating an I-9 Compliance Officer

Appointing an I-9 Compliance Officer helps ensure that someone within the organization takes responsibility for overseeing I-9 compliance. The officer can oversee the organization’s policies, processes, and recordkeeping requirements, as well as provide guidance and training to employees.

Training Staff on I-9 Requirements

Proper training on I-9 requirements is crucial to ensure consistent compliance within nonprofit organizations. Staff members responsible for completing and maintaining I-9 forms should receive comprehensive training on the proper procedures, document examination, and recordkeeping requirements. This training should be periodically updated to reflect any changes in regulations.

Maintaining Recordkeeping and Auditing Processes

Nonprofit organizations should establish and maintain a comprehensive recordkeeping system for I-9 forms. I-9 forms must be retained for a specific period, either until three years after the date of hire or one year after the employment relationship ends, whichever is later. Organizations should also establish an auditing process to periodically review their I-9 forms for accuracy and completeness.

I-9 Compliance Audits and Inspections

Common Triggers for Audits

Nonprofit organizations may undergo I-9 audits and inspections conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Common triggers for audits include tips or complaints from employees, former employees, or anonymous sources, as well as random audits conducted by ICE.

Preparing for an I-9 Audit

To prepare for an I-9 audit, nonprofit organizations should ensure that all I-9 forms are accurately completed and properly stored. Organizations should review their recordkeeping processes and address any deficiencies identified. It is advisable to conduct internal audits periodically to identify and rectify errors or missing information proactively.

What to Expect During an Audit

During an I-9 audit, ICE will typically provide a Notice of Inspection (NOI), which requires the organization to present its I-9 forms within a designated timeframe. The organization may be given an opportunity to correct technical or procedural violations identified during the audit. Following the review of the I-9 forms, ICE will issue its findings, which may include fines or other penalties for any violations discovered.

Penalties and Risks of Noncompliance

Civil Penalties for Form I-9 Violations

Nonprofit organizations that fail to comply with I-9 requirements may face civil penalties ranging from $230 to $2,292 per violation, depending on the severity and frequency of the violations. These penalties can accumulate quickly if multiple violations are found during an audit, potentially leading to significant financial consequences for the organization.

Criminal Consequences of Employing Unauthorized Workers

Intentionally employing unauthorized workers or engaging in document fraud can result in criminal charges for individuals responsible within the organization. Criminal consequences can include fines and imprisonment. Nonprofit organizations must take I-9 compliance seriously and ensure proper employment eligibility verification to avoid these severe consequences.

Reputational and Legal Risks

Noncompliance with I-9 requirements can have reputational and legal risks for nonprofit organizations. Negative publicity resulting from violations can damage the organization’s reputation and impact its ability to attract funding and support. Additionally, noncompliance may lead to discrimination claims or investigations by other government agencies, further damaging the organization’s reputation and subjecting it to additional legal risks.

I-9 Compliance FAQs for Nonprofit Organizations:

1. Are nonprofits required to complete Form I-9 for unpaid volunteers?

Yes, nonprofit organizations must complete Form I-9 for all employees, regardless of whether they are paid or unpaid. Unpaid volunteers are not exempt from the requirement to complete Form I-9.

2. Can a nonprofit be fined for incomplete or incorrect I-9 forms?

Yes, nonprofit organizations can be fined for incomplete or incorrect I-9 forms. It is essential to ensure that all sections of Form I-9 are completed accurately and on time to avoid potential penalties during an audit or inspection.

3. How often do I need to update Section 3 for employees with expiring work authorization?

Section 3 of Form I-9 must be updated when an employee’s employment authorization document has expired. Once the employee provides a new document demonstrating continued work authorization, Section 3 should be completed. The update should occur before the previous document’s expiration date to maintain compliance.


Complying with I-9 requirements is crucial for nonprofit organizations to ensure a legal and reputable workforce. By understanding the basics of completing each section of Form I-9, including special considerations for volunteers, DACA recipients, and international employees, nonprofit organizations can establish effective policies and procedures. Additionally, preparing for I-9 audits and inspections, and understanding the potential penalties and risks of noncompliance, can help organizations prioritize I-9 compliance. By adhering to these guidelines, nonprofit organizations can mitigate legal risks, protect their reputation, and ensure compliance with applicable employment laws. If you have any questions or concerns regarding I-9 compliance for your nonprofit organization, it is advisable to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.

Remember, the information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Get it here