“Welcome! Please be sure to sign here, here, and last but not least, here.”
There’s new hire orientation and then there’s employee onboarding—the former is a best practice, the latter is a compliance necessity. You’ll need employees to take time out of what is already a busy first day to sign documents proving who they are and how they’d like to be paid.
How do you make sure to cross all your T’s and dot your I’s? To help you out, we’ve compiled the documents you’ll need new hires to sign, accurate as of April 2017. Note that these are only nationally required forms for employee onboarding—your city or state may have its own additional requirements.
Employment Eligibility Verification (USCIS Form I-9)
The Form I-9 has been a hallmark of employee onboarding since the eighties. Updated earlier this year, the mandatory form is used to confirm an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. If you’ve ever started a new job and were asked to bring documents to confirm your identity, like a passport or social security card, you’ve filled out an I-9.
The form is divided into three sections, each with a distinct purpose, signer, and deadline.
Section 1 - Employee Information and Attestation
(Signed by employee, due on first day)
The first page of the form is completed by the employee on his or her first day at work. Individuals will be asked to disclose personal information including their legal name, home address, date of birth, social security number, and telephone number. They’ll be asked to specify their citizenship or immigration status, and if applicable, alien registration number.
Section 2 - Employer Review and Verification
(Signed by employer, due by third day)
Employers must complete section 2 within three business days of the employee’s start date. This part of the Form I-9 tasks HR with recording and examining a new hire’s corroborating documents.
Permissible documents include a U.S. or foreign passport, driver’s license, Form I-94, social security card, and a wide variety of others. If the individual is a minor, they can even use their school report card. The thing to note is that only the right combination of documents will satisfy the form’s requirements. For example, a U.S. passport can be used alone, but if employees provide their driver's license, they’ll need to provide a supporting document, like their social security card or birth certificate. An outline of these requirements can be found on page four of the I-9, or on the USCIS website.
Under anti-discrimination laws, it’s important to note that employers cannot specify which documents an employee provides, so long as they meet the form’s requirements. All documents must be unexpired and physically in your hands. No scans or photocopies allowed! If you’re onboarding a new hire that’s working in another office, keep in mind that you can ask an onsite employee to cover for you—or even use a third party, like a notary.
Section 3 - Reverification and Rehire
(Signed by employer, only if the employee’s authorization expires)
If the employee’s proof of work authorization or immigration status is due to expire, employers must revisit his or her Form I-9 and complete section 3. This part of the form is used for entering new document numbers (if applicable) and their updated expiration dates.
As in Section 2, you’ll need to physically handle the documents to confirm their authenticity.
While not mandatory, the USCIS recommends completing Section 3 when an employee legally changes his or her name or is rehired within three years of the employee’s original start date.
Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate (IRS Form W-4)
Now that you’ve confirmed your employee is legally allowed to work in the U.S., it’s time to talk payroll. The Form W-4 is a required part of the employee onboarding process, and it determines how much federal income tax should be withheld from an employee’s paycheck.
Individuals are asked to fill out a “personal allowance worksheet” based on their marital status, whether their spouse works, and other personal factors. The more allowances specified, the less income tax is withheld from regular pay.
Getting this right matters, since withholding too few taxes might mean a big balance due when it comes time for the employee to file annual returns. Explaining the rules carefully to new hires can help avoid employee confrontations during tax season, but tread carefully—you never want to provide direct tax advice to new hires.
It’s best practice to have employees review their W-4 whenever their personal or financial situation changes. There are a few instances where it’s recommended or even required to have current employees fill out a new form. These include:
- Legal name changes
- Change in marital status or birth of a child
- Annually for employees claiming exempt status
Once you have these employees fill out a new form, be sure to load any changes into your payroll and HR system.
Speaking of HR technology, if your employee undergoes a name change, be sure to double check that the employee’s name has been updated throughout your system. When it comes time to generate W-2s, you’ll want to make sure the employee names are accurate on those forms as well.
Wage and Tax Statement (IRS Form W-2)
If you use a payroll service provider, you’ll likely be able to skip this step. The IRS recommends filling out a blank W-2 with the new hire’s legal name and social security number, as this information will be needed when it comes time for filing. Though you aren’t required to, you may ask to see a copy of a new hire’s social security card to confirm the number’s accuracy. The Social Security Administration offers a free service for employers looking to verify social security numbers.
If the employee offers you something called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), note that these will not suffice. ITINs are only issued to individuals who are ineligible to work in the U.S., but still need identification for tax purposes.
If you use a technology platform to manage your HR and payroll, this important information will likely already be in your database—and will pre-populate when it comes time to generate W-2s. Be sure to have employees periodically verify their personal information in your system of record, as you may have to file a corrected W-2 (Form W-2C) if there’s a discrepancy between what’s on the form and what the federal government has on record.
The above serves as a guide to what’s required nationally. As often is the case in compliance, there’s an additional layer of complexity, because many states and cities have their own requirements. In New York, for example, all new hires must be provided with a written notice stating their rate of pay, overtime eligibility, pay frequency, and employer contact information—all in English and the employee’s preferred language.
You can brush up on what your locality requires by visiting your state’s labor department website. There you’ll find other required forms, office posting requirements, and helpful FAQs.
In addition to covering these local requirements, you should always have employees sign off on your company handbook. Your handbook is the best place for your organization to communicate its policies and guidelines, and receiving that documented acknowledgement from the employee could become important in a future dispute.
Onboarding employees and getting them on payroll should be the easy part, especially if you’ve got the right technology in place. For now, those new hires’ spirits are high and the future looks bright—keeping them engaged will be your top priority in the weeks ahead. Click below to learn an expert approach on how to do just that: