The I-9 form is a critical employment document for every production company. From a producer’s point-of-view, exactly what is needed for I-9 compliance?
In this post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about I-9 compliance. We’ll talk about what the I-9 form is, why the I-9 form is important, and what is needed for I-9 qualifying documents.
There have been changes made to the I-9 form as of late 2023. You can find the latest pdf version here. If you’re using Wrapbook to onboard and pay cast and crew, you can be sure we have the latest pdf available.
In film production terms, I-9 forms make sure that a crew member can be legally hired to work on your shoot. An employee’s I-9 form needs to be filled out by both the employee and the production company.
Note that I-9 forms are required at the federal level, not the state. There are no state-specific variations. You won’t find a New York I-9 form or a California I-9 form because there is no New York or California I-9 form.
Regardless of what state you hire an employee within, you’ll need to collect and keep a copy of the same federal I-9 form.
I-9 forms establish an employee’s identity and employment eligibility, matters directly tied to a person’s legal status within the country (i.e. as a citizen, permanent resident, etc.).
To illustrate, let’s take a look at how I-9 identification documents work both in practice and in the bigger picture of crew onboarding.
Officially known as “Employment Eligibility Verification”, a correctly processed I-9 form requires action and information from both employers and employees. Employees will fill out most of the form on their own, but employers must countersign the I-9 as well as review certain I-9 qualifying documents in person before accepting it.
We’ll break down a full list of I-9 documents required for production crew hiring later, but their general purpose is to verify an employee’s identity and employment eligibility.
Employers must physically inspect these I-9 qualifying documents to ensure that information provided on the I-9 form is correct and has not been falsified. They must ensure through documentation that the employee is who they say they are and can, in fact, be legally employed.
After they’ve reviewed the I-9 documents required from an employee, employers certify them with their own information and signature. Once the production crew hiring process is complete, the employer will need to file and store an I-9 form for every employee they hire for the required retention period.
The required retention period is equal to three years after the date of hire or one year after the date of employment ending. Whichever is later.
As we’ll see below, maintaining these records is crucial to I-9 compliance.
I-9 identification documents are an essential component of the production crew hiring process. They confirm an employee’s identity as well as the employer’s right to hire them. Without I-9 forms, you simply wouldn’t have all the paperwork you need to legally hire crew. Onboarding would not be complete, and your production company could find itself in legal jeopardy.
Without I-9 forms on file, you have no documentation that you have completed federal requirements to verify a crew member’s identity or employment authorization.
We’ll talk more about specific legal consequences below. First, let’s dig a little deeper into what I-9 compliance means.
I-9 compliance means meeting all the legal requirements associated with the I-9 form. That means collecting, processing, and maintaining I-9 forms within certain guidelines.
We can break I-9 compliance into three basic steps.
The most essential step in I-9 compliance is to simply collect the form with inputs from the employee. All U.S. employers must properly complete an I-9 form for every individual they hire for employment. This includes any cast or crew hired to work on a production.
We’ll dig into some technicalities with this particular element of I-9 compliance later, but the basic principle is what matters most for now. To maintain I-9 compliance, you must collect an I-9 from any individual that you hire as an employee. However, exceptions to this include employees rehired within three years of their original hire date (more details included below in the discussion of I-9, Section 3), loan-outs, and contractors.
The second major component of I-9 compliance is the employer’s responsibility to properly inspect all I-9s and I-9 qualifying documents. Employers must ensure that the employee’s sections of the I-9 form are correctly filled out before accepting and countersigning it.
Employers must physically examine all identifying documents and employment authorization within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment. If an employee only works one day, this must be done by the end of that work day. In general, all I-9 qualifying documents must be verified in person.
The final key to I-9 compliance is to maintain records. If requested by a government official, your employees’ I-9 forms must be made available for inspection.
Of course, there are limitations. While you must have an I-9 form on file for every current employee, you don’t have to keep them until the end of time. Employers are only required to keep I-9 forms for three years from an employee’s first day of employment or for one year after that employment ends, whichever is longer.
To complete the production crew hiring process, productions must physically review I-9 documents required for establishing identity and employment authorization. These documents must be original (i.e. not a photocopy) and unexpired.
The USCIS divides I-9 qualifying documents into three categories: List A, List B, and List C. To maintain I-9 compliance, employers must review either one document from List A OR a combination of one document from List B and one document from List C.
The goal of the I-9 form is to verify both an employee’s identity and their employment authorization. Documents from List A satisfy both conditions simultaneously.
Here’s a full breakdown of approved documents from List A:
I-9 documents required from List B only establish an employee’s identity. To fully satisfy I-9 requirements during the production crew hiring process, a document from List B must be paired with a document from List C (see below).
Here’s a full breakdown of approved IDs for I-9s from List B:
For persons under age 18 who are unable to present a document listed above:
I-9 qualifying documents from List C establish an employee’s legal authorization to work within the United States. Once paired with a document from List B, these items allow you to complete production crew hiring and fulfill the initial requirements of I-9 compliance.
Here’s a full breakdown of approved documents from List C:
Staying current with updates to the I-9 form is essential for maintaining compliance. The USCIS periodically revises the form, and your vigilance in staying informed is key to meeting these changes head-on.
While we, as your payroll company, do our part by offering resources, it's crucial to recognize that the responsibility for I-9 compliance rests with you as the production company. Here are some recent form updates to be aware of:
To proactively stay informed about these updates, consider periodically checking the official government website. Additionally, staying connected with us can be a valuable resource for staying in the know about I-9 compliance.
By staying informed and utilizing the appropriate supplements when needed, you can effectively maintain I-9 compliance within your production company.
I-9 compliance is important for the same reasons that all employment compliance is important. Regulations that guide I-9 usage are intended to protect employers and employees. I-9 compliance reduces fraud and vulnerabilities to other illegal activities.
On a more practical note, I-9 compliance matters because there may be costly consequences to non-compliance. If you don’t perform due diligence, simple errors can turn into expensive payroll mistakes.
If USCIS suspects irregularities in your I-9 paperwork, you may receive a Notice of Inspection and enter into an I-9 audit process. If technical or procedural failures are uncovered, you may be offered the chance to correct them without further consequences. However, if the violations are determined to be substantive, you may be headed for some serious fines.
Several factors influence the exact fine amounts, but each error can be given its own penalty. Depending on the number of infractions committed, costs can add up quickly.
In January of 2022, a staffing firm (United States vs. R&SL, Inc.) was found liable for more than 1,400 I-9 violations. They were ultimately fined just over $1.5 million in civil penalties.
The short answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, you do need an I-9 for every single crew member that you hire. No, you don’t technically need to collect a brand new I-9 form for each production on which you hire them.
In most industries, it’s uncommon for employees to be rehired by the same employer multiple times. In film production, however, rehiring is the norm. Every crew position works on a job-by-job basis, frequently hired by the same production company for multiple gigs.
As a result, productions tend to collect multiple I-9 forms from individual crew members. While processing and storing multiple I-9s for repeat crew members is inefficient from both a time and energy standpoint, it’s an accepted practice. Unless a worker is classified as a contractor or loan out, each project is considered new employment and requires a new I-9.
However, there is an exception built into the I-9 rules. Production companies could take advantage of Section 3.
Form I-9, Section 3 introduces another way to handle rehiring & re-verification in the production crew process.
If an employee is rehired within three years of their original hire date, the US government allows the employer to simply fill out and sign Section 3 of the original I-9. A little bit of information and a fresh signature from the employer keeps everyone in I-9 compliance. The employee doesn’t have to do a thing, unless the employer needs information from them to complete Section 3 or their employment authorization expires.
There are a few more things to keep in mind about Section 3. Here’s more on what’s required depending on your crew's circumstances.
Re-hire is required when:
Re-verification is required when:
Production crew hiring tends to be fast paced, with rehires and new hires joining the team all at once. As a result, I-9 Section 3 is rarely used in the production industry.
Still, Section 3 is a potentially powerful tool for the production department. While it hasn’t been feasible with a traditional workflow, Wrapbook’s digital pipeline is changing the game. Wrapbook simplifies I-9 compliance, even when it comes to Section 3.
Wrapbook is a one-stop solution for entertainment payroll, production insurance, and production management. Our platform leverages digital tools to make dealing with I-9s faster, easier, and more efficient than your physical workflow.
Here are five Wrapbook features that can upgrade your I-9 management.
With Wrapbook, your production team can add or remove I-9 forms from crew startwork packets with just a few clicks. Our interface allows users to customize exactly what paperwork they want to collect.
With Wrapbook, producers and their crew experience onboarding the way it was meant to be. Startwork is completely digital, making the chaos of physical paperwork a thing of the past.
Crew members can fill out I-9s and other startwork documents electronically. If a crew member is being rehired, documents like the I-9 form are sent pre-populated to the production company, ready to be verified and completed with a simple review and e-signature.
After completion, Wrapbook collects and organizes startwork documents automatically, priming them for easy processing at your production team’s convenience.
And with the Wrapbook App, your crew and cast can access and upload their documents anywhere at any time!
Wrapbook’s automated tracking features ensure that I-9 forms and other documents aren’t lost in the production shuffle. Wrapbook tells you exactly where critical documents are at any given time.
For example, your production coordinator can track the completion of all cast and crew I-9s from one section of Wrapbook’s intuitive interface. When a crew member submits an I-9, Wrapbook will alert your production team.
With Wrapbook, there’s no more guesswork about which crew members have turned in what documents. It only takes a quick review to understand an entire project’s startwork status, allowing your team to spend more time focusing on the real work of production.
Long-term I-9 compliance requires extensive record-keeping. Wrapbook provides you with tools to optimize your records by combining digital document storage with advanced database functionality.
With Wrapbook, documents are automatically organized into an easily searchable database. If you need to find an I-9 for a specific crew member that you hired for one job two years ago, all you need is their name. In a few keystrokes, you can access any document you require.
You’ll be able to download these PDFs directly from Wrapbook. With Wrapbook, you’ll have the latest available forms a download away!
As a bonus, Wrapbook’s database features are also an invaluable tool for crewing up. Wrapbook automatically builds a comprehensive All-Crew Database as you onboard crew members, forming the ultimate crew list over time.
You can rehire any former crew member through their Wrapbook profile with just a few clicks, pre-populating their startwork with information they’ve entered previously. This single tool dramatically reduces the time and energy poured into onboarding, sparing you and your crew from untold hours wasted on redundant paperwork.
Wrapbook’s I-9 Section 3 functionality streamlines onboarding for rehires. It makes the process both faster and easier for crew members and production companies alike.
By clicking a button on a rehired worker’s Wrapbook profile, your production team can jump into an abridged Section 3 workflow. They’ll review the employee’s previous information, confirm their new work dates, and quickly determine whether any documents are required for reverification (i.e. new driver’s license information in the event that their previous license expired). Meanwhile, the employee doesn’t have to fill out any new I-9 material.
If all the info checks out, your production team digitally signs the Section 3 and that’s it. You can access them at any time through your production company’s records, through the crew member’s individual user profile, and download the pdf if and when you need to. And as discussed in then earlier Section 3 mention, Wrapbook’s allows customers with an option to re-verify I-9s on each new project, at end of each year, once per year, or once per 3 years.
Previously, I-9 Section 3 has been too challenging for use in production. While it promised ease and efficiency, the reality of physical onboarding workflows made it cumbersome and risky.
Now, with Wrapbook, I-9 Section 3 is finally a viable tool for your production company. Our digital interface and workflows enable you to use Section 3 to work faster, easier, and with less risk.
The core of I-9 compliance is formed by due diligence and strong organization. Tools like Wrapbook can optimize not only I-9 management but the entire production management pipeline. From hiring crew to paying them and beyond, Wrapbook is a faster, easier, and more efficient payroll and production management solution.
To learn more, check out the demo.
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