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If you want to work in the United States, you'll need to prove your identity and your legal right to work. Whether you're been a lifelong Alabama resident or you are a new immigrant from another country, your employer must file a federal I-9 form. To complete the form, employers need you to provide the identifying I-9 documents specified by federal law.
Selecting I-9 Documents
The government divides forms of identification for employment into A, B and C categories. If you have a document in Class A, that's all you need. If you're going with B and C, you need two forms of ID, one from each category.
The reason? Documents in A prove both your identity and your right to work. B documents prove your identity only, and C documents only prove your right to work. You need one of each. Where you're working doesn't matter. The acceptable forms of ID at a bar are no different than the acceptable forms at a legal firm.
Category A, B And C
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service lists all the qualifying documents in each category on its website. The acceptable documents in Category A include:
- U.S. passport or passport card.
- A permanent resident card, AKA a "green card."
- A foreign passport that includes an authorization to work.
- An employment authorization document card.
- Passports from Micronesia or the Marshall Islands are acceptable with the right paperwork.
For Category B, the choices include:
- A driver's license that includes a photo or identifying information such as name, age and eye color.
- A federal, state or local government ID card, if it includes a photo or identifying identification.
- School ID with a photograph.
- Voter registration card.
- U.S. military card or military dependent ID card.
- Native American tribal documents.
- Canadian driver's license.
If you're under 18 and don't have a qualifying document, you can use a school record, report card or hospital record.
In Category C, you have another set of choices:
- A Social Security card that doesn't have any language saying "not valid for work" or the like.
- A consular report of a birth abroad.
- A foreign birth certificate issued by the Department of State.
- An American birth certificate with an official seal.
- A Native American tribal document.
- A U.S. citizen ID card or a resident citizen ID card.
- A Homeland Security document authorizing you to work.
Know Your Rights
Requiring proof that you can work for them could easily allow employers to discriminate, making the I-9 process easier for job hunters who look white or American-born. To prevent that, the government has a set of rules employers are supposed to follow.
Most importantly, it's illegal to discriminate among aspiring employees. Employers can't insist that you provide a a category A document or say which of the B and C documents they'll accept. Refusing to hire you because your proof includes a foreign birth certificate or Native American documentation violates the law. Even if an employer knows you and knows you're a U.S. citizen, they can't cut you any slack they don't cut every applicant.
For the same reason, employers cannot demand documentation until they actually hire you. You don't have to have two forms of ID for a job interview, because your employer can't ask you for them at that time. That comes after you land the job, not before.
Once you land the job, you'll have to fill out part of the I-9 form. Some of the I-9 covers the same information as every other form you've ever completed: name, address, contact information, date of birth, Social Security number. However you will also need to give your legal status, such as a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. You sign this section under penalty of perjury.
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