October 20, 2023

I-9 Compliance Rules for Production Companies

Loring Weisenberger
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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.

What’s an I-9 form and why does it have to be filled out?

The I-9 form is a federally required startwork document. Its purpose is to verify an employee’s identity and ensure that they have proper employment authorization. 

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.

What is I-9 compliance?

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.

How do production companies use I-9s?

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. 

How to keep in I-9 compliance

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.

1. Collect an I-9 form from every employee

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.

2. Correctly process all I-9s and I-9 qualifying documents

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. 

3. Maintain records for long-term I-9 compliance

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. 

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What are I-9 qualifying documents?

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. 

List A: Documents that establish both identity and employment authorization

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:

  1. U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card
  2. Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551)
  3. Foreign passport that contains a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation on a machine-readable immigrant visa
  4. Employment Authorization Document that contains a photograph (Form I-766)
  5. For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work for a specific employer because of his or her status: Foreign passport; and Form I-94 or Form I-94A that has the following: The same name as the passport, an endorsement of the alien’s nonimmigrant status as long as that period of endorsement has not yet expired and the proposed employment is not in conflict with any restrictions or limitations identified on the form.
  6. Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association Between the United States and the FSM or RMI

List B: Documents that establish identity

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:

  1. Driver’s license or ID card issued by a State or outlying possession of the United States provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
  2. ID card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities provided it contains a photography or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
  3. School ID card with a photograph
  4. Voter’s registration card
  5. U.S. Military card or draft record
  6. Military dependent’s ID card
  7. U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
  8. Native American tribal document
  9. Driver’s license issued by a Canadian government authority

For persons under age 18 who are unable to present a document listed above:

  1. School record or report card
  2. Clinic, doctor, or hospital record
  3. Day-care or nursery school record

List C: Documents that establish employment authorization

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:

  1. A Social Security Account Number card, unless the card includes one of the following restrictions: NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT, VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH INS AUTHORIZATION, or VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION
  2. Certification of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Forms DS-1350, FS-545, FS-240)
  3. Original or certified copy of birth certificate issued by a State, country, municipal authority, or territory of the United States bearing an official seal
  4. Native American tribal document
  5. U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197)
  6. Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States (Form I-179)
  7. Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security

4. Stay Informed to Keep Up with Changes

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:

  • Reduced Sections 1 and 2: The most recent revisions have streamlined Sections 1 and 2, combining them onto a single sheet. This simplifies the process and condenses certain fields.
  • Section 1 Preparer/Translator Certification: The Section 1 Preparer/Translator Certification section has been relocated to a separate Supplement A. Employers can use this supplement when needed, providing three dedicated areas for current and future preparers and translators to complete as necessary. You also have the flexibility to attach additional supplements if required.
  • Section 3 Reverification and Rehire: Section 3, which addresses reverification and rehire, now resides in a standalone Supplement B. This supplement is designed for employers to use as necessary for rehires or reverifications, offering four designated areas for current and subsequent reverifications. Just like Supplement A, you can attach extra supplements when the situation demands.

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.

Why does I-9 compliance matter?

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. 

Do I need a new I-9 form from each crew member for every new production?

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.

I-9 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:

  • A worker re-joins a company from which they were previously terminated. On Wrapbook, this re-hire requirement applies to workers who complete a project and are then ‘re-hired’ to another project (with the same company).
  • The I-9 form version changed since the last collected I-9 from the worker.

Re-verification is required when:

  • Employee has a legal name change.
  • Expiry of employee’s employment authorization or documentation of employment authorization (only applies for non-US citizens; non-Form I-551 holders [Green Card]; and non-List B documents).
  • Employee is rehired by a company 3 years after completion date of the originally completed Form I-9 (NOTE: Wrapbook’s I-9 re-verification settings provide 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). 

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.

How does Wrapbook simplify I-9 compliance?

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.

1. Digital I-9 collection

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.

I-9 Rules for Production Companies - Wrapbook - New Startwork
Wrapbook enables you to craft custom startwork packets in a matter of minutes.

2. Digital onboarding & e-signatures

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.

I-9 Rules for Production Companies - Wrapbook - Onboarding
Wrapbook optimizes onboarding for both you and your crew.

After completion, Wrapbook collects and organizes startwork documents automatically, priming them for easy processing at your production team’s convenience.

I-9 Rules for Production Companies - Wrapbook - Mobile Startwork
The Wrapbook App puts production management in the palm of your hand!

And with the Wrapbook App, your crew and cast can access and upload their documents anywhere at any time!

3. Automated tracking

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. 

I-9 Rules for Production Companies - Wrapbook - Automated Tracking
Wrapbook tracks startwork documents automatically.

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.

4. Advanced document storage

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!

I-9 Compliance Rules for Production Companies - Wrapbook - I-9 Form
Never lose another document with Wrapbook’s searchable database.

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.

I-9 Rules for Production Companies - Wrapbook - Crew Database
Wrapbook’s All-Crew Database makes it faster and easier to re-hire crew.

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.

5. Streamline Section 3 with Wrapbook

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. 

Wrapping up

The core of I-9 compliance is formed by due diligence and strong organization. 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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Last Updated 
October 20, 2023


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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