Q&A: What if I don't have the required original documents for I-9 purposes?

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Question:

I recently lost everything in a fire. I have no passport, no driver’s license, no birth certificate, and no Social Security card. I finally got a new job, but my employer says that I can't keep working until I present documents to prove that I am authorized to work. I have a copy of the list of documents that are acceptable, but I do not have any of them. Can I really be fired for this?

Answer:

Yes, but you don’t have to be. There is something you can do.

Employers can terminate employees who fail to present proof of identity and work authorization within the required timeframe (usually three business days after your first day of work for pay, though some employers shorten the timeframe).

While the lists of acceptable documents from the Form I-9 do not specifically tell you this, you can present a receipt for a replacement document if your original was lost, stolen, or damaged.

Because your documents were lost/damaged in a fire, you should apply for new ones. Ask the agency to provide you with a receipt or letter indicating that you have applied for a replacement. The U.S. Department of State could provide you with a receipt for your application to replace your passport; the Department of Motor Vehicles could provide a receipt for or your license application or even a temporary license; and the Social Security Administration can provide a receipt showing that you applied for a replacement Social Security card.

This is not a permanent fix. You will have 90 days from the time you present a receipt or receipts to ultimately show an original or originals to your employer. But it will save you from being fired for not presenting anything at all.

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