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Work Documents: What Do You Need for Employment in the US?

When a new employee starts at work, employers have a few responsibilities to get them onboarded. Some of these responsibilities include training, explaining the company’s operations and having the employee fill out the proper paperwork. Learn which documents your new hires need to fill out in order to legally work in the United States. 


Related: New Hire Onboarding Checklist

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An introduction to work documents

When onboarding a new employee, there are several documents employers need to process and keep on file. Here are the work documents you need to collect from new employees:


  • Proof of identification
  • I-9 form
  • W-4 form
  • Direct deposit

Related: How to Hire Your First Employee


Proof of identification

In the United States, employees must prove their identity and verify that they are legally authorized to work in the county. They can do this by presenting their employer with certain documents. These documents are separated into three lists: List A, List B and List C. 

If employees have one document under List A, that is sufficient proof of identification and authorization to work. Otherwise, employees must present two documents: one from List B and one from List C. Note that employees need to present you with original documents, not copies. Make sure all documents are current and up to date. 

Here are the documents each list includes:


List A: These documents verify both identity and employment eligibility


  • Unexpired U.S. passport
  • Unexpired foreign passport (with an I-551 stamp)
  • Unexpired employment authorization card
  • Alien registration receipt card or permanent resident card
  • Unexpired employment authorization document containing a photograph (issued by USCIS)
  • Unexpired foreign passport (with form I-94, containing an endorsement of nonimmigrant status)


List B: These documents verify identity


  • Valid U.S. or Canadian driver’s license or ID card that contains a photograph or description of personal characteristics
  • ID card issued by local, state or federal agencies with a photograph on it
  • Voter’s registration card
  • U.S. military card or draft record
  • Military dependent’s ID card
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner card
  • A Native American tribal document
  • School ID card with photograph (employees under 18)
  • Hospital, clinic or doctor record (employees under 18)
  • Daycare or nursery school record (employees under 18)


List C: These documents verify employment eligibility


  • Social security card
  • U.S. or birth abroad certificate
  • Native American tribal document
  • U.S. citizen ID card 
  • Resident citizen ID card
  • Unexpired employment authorization document (issued by DHS)


I-9 form

Along with the proof of identification documents, employees must fill out an I-9 form to verify their employment eligibility. After the employee turns in the I-9 form, you must keep it on file, stored separately from other employee documents. 

Your company may need to use E-Verify, which is a system used to compare information on an I-9 form with federal databases to ensure accuracy. 


W-4 form

Employees must fill out a W-4 form to indicate their tax situation to your business. This form tells your business how much tax to withhold from the employee’s paycheck. Make sure to administer the most recent version of this form to new hires and offer existing employees the option to update their previous W-4 to the most current version. 


Direct deposit

If your company provides a direct deposit, it is important to have new employees provide their bank information soon after starting so they can get paid in the next pay period. 


Quick tips about employment documents

When a new employee starts, it’s your responsibility as their employer to inform them of all the documents they will need to fill out. To ensure the employee’s onboarding process goes smoothly, follow these tips:


  • Keep records safe: There are laws that require employers to keep an employee’s documents for a certain amount of time. Get familiar with these laws. Likewise, it is an employer’s job to keep records safe and stored properly. Employees are trusting you to keep their personal information private.
  • Provide resources for employees: Most people are not tax experts, so provide employees with resources to correctly fill out their forms. Entry-level employees will especially appreciate this guidance as they may have no experience doing this before. 
  • Follow deadlines: Many of these forms have deadlines. Make sure to collect them from employees on their first day of work. 

Related: New Employee Announcement


Work documents FAQs

There are many aspects of the onboarding process to keep in mind as an employer. Here are a couple of frequently asked questions about work documents: 


What are some other important documents to collect from employees?

After collecting all of your tax and employment verification forms, you could also require additional forms. These may include:


  • Benefits paperwork: Employees will need to fill out paperwork for benefits such as your company’s retirement plan, health and life insurance and disability insurance.
  • Drug test consent agreements: If your workplace requires drug and/or alcohol tests, you will need employees to fill out a form of consent before administering their tests. 
  • Emergency contact information: In case of an emergency, encourage employees to provide emergency contacts, a brief medical history and any food allergies or intolerances. 
  • Employee goals form: Start an employee’s time at your company off right by learning their goals. Use a worksheet that helps them create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals. You can also have their manager or supervisor check in with them regularly to make sure they’re making good progress toward their goals.
  • Employee handbook: To ensure a new employee fully understands your employee handbook, require them to sign an acknowledgment of the handbook. It’s especially effective to require signatures throughout the handbook to make sure they read the entire thing. 
  • Employment contract: In the employment contract, outline the employee’s job information, including the employee’s job title, responsibilities, length of employment, compensation, benefits of terms of employment.
  • Non-disclosure agreements: If you are working with confidential information, have the employee sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure this information stays within the company. 


Which department is responsible for employee documents?

Many businesses have their human resources department take care of a new employee’s work documents. In smaller companies, however, a supervisor or manager may be in charge of collecting and sorting new work documents.


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