Q: We would like to hire a paid intern from a local university for the summer and into the fall. The problem is that she has the proper paperwork to be a student, but she doesn’t have a Social Security Number. Before we officially hire her, can we ask to see the documents that she would use for the I-9 form?
A: Typically, internship programs offered through a college or university ensure that their students have the legal right to participate in the internship prior to making the student available to employers. You may wish to confirm with the internship coordinator that this student has the legal right to work as part of the internship program. In addition, as part of the pre-hire process, it is appropriate for employers to remind applicants that they must produce documentation upon hire that they have the legal right to work in the United States. Some employers will provide the applicant with the list of acceptable documents from the I-9 form that he/she should bring with him/her on the first day of work with the offer letter.
DO NOT ask the student to see the documents she would use for the I-9 prior to employment, as it could be viewed as a discriminatory practice (especially if you do not hire the intern). In fact, the Department of Homeland Security lists this practice as a potential violation of employee rights on their website.
I-9 Process: Employers must first complete an I-9 form for every new hire (whether the new hire is a temporary intern or a regular full-time employee), within three business days of the date the employee starts work. Employers may not begin the I-9 process until after the individual is hired. The employer and newly-hired employee jointly complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form. The form asks for employee’s name and date of birth; Social Security Number; citizenship status; documentation to establish work authorization; and proof of identity and expiration date, if applicable. Employees may choose from several documents to prove identity and authorization to work, such as a U.S. passport or unexpired employment authorization card, or a combination of a driver’s license and Social Security card. Documents must appear genuine.
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