Did you know that most production offices spend hours going after missing information when reviewing I-9 forms? Although it is one of the most commonly used documents in the entertainment industry, there is still a shroud of mystery surrounding this “Employment Eligibility Verification” (I-9) form.
This article will highlight aspects of the I-9 form that are specifically relevant to the entertainment industry and explain in detail how some of the lesser-known sections need to be filled out.
Also, we will review digital solutions that facilitate employee verification as this simple task can quickly become an administrative nightmare.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office, employees must complete Section 1 (Employee Information and Attestation) of an Employment Eligibility Verification form. The deadline for this to be completed is:
But this doesn’t stop here. Employers must complete section 2 (Employer or Authorized Representative Review and verification) of the I-9 form within the following timeframe:
Finally, if an employer is still employing or re-employing someone within 3 years of their original hire date, they should fill out Section 3 (Reverification and Rehires) of the Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 form, if:
Jane Doe is hired by Castifi to perform as a background actor. Jane accepts the job on Friday and is scheduled to be on set the following Monday.
Because Jane is only booked for one day of work, her Employment Eligibility Verification form will need to be completed by both herself and Castifi before the end of the day Monday.
If Jane is rehired by Castifi within 3 years, she does not need to fill out an I-9 form again as long as her name or employment authorization documents have not changed. Otherwise, Castifi will need to re-submit section 3 of the I-9 form.
If Jane is rehired after 3 years from the original I-9 submission, she will need to fill out a new I-9 form.
This section is filled out by the person hired for the job (cast or crew) and designed to collect their basic information as well as their “Citizenship/Immigration Status”.
Contrary to the W-4 form, the “Apt. Number” field is separate from the “Address” field. Many employees make the mistake of combining the two, which can cause your check to be “lost in the mail”.
Do I have to provide my social security number?
According to the USCI, the Social Security number field is optional, unless the employer uses E-Verify (more on this below). However, and to guarantee that your payment is processed swiftly, we recommend that you include your SSN on the employment eligibility verification form since most entertainment payroll companies make this a requirement.
If you have concerns about potential identity theft, contact your production office or payroll company and ask what the alternative options are, or how forms are stored and disposed of.
A note on information security:
Many people don’t trust technology to safeguard their information. At Castifi, our goal is to provide a safe environment for all, which is why we work with trusted partners to encrypt personal sensitive information.
Some people prefer to provide their information on paper, as it can seem more secure that way. However, it’s important to realize that paper documents are one of the worst ways of storing data securely.
Loose sheets of paper that get left around the set for anyone to grab or see, are unfortunately way too common in the entertainment industry. Storage methods are often insecure. Most production offices store “show binders” in unprotected buildings in cheap industrial neighborhoods.
When filling out a sensitive document online, use the following guidelines to determine the level of risk:
These certificates are awarded to businesses that submit extensive details on how they handle digital information and have gone through deep security testing.
Do I have to provide my email and phone number?
Again, according to the USCIS, these fields are optional. However, we strongly recommend that you provide this information and that you verify that the information is written properly.
I-9 forms are very often used by production personnel to contact employees with important questions and/or updates. Providing your contact details on the employment eligibility verification form will help expedite payment processing in many cases.
Don’t forget to sign and date section 1
It’s more common than you think for employees to provide all their information but to forget to sign the section!
The date should reflect either your first day of work or a prior date if the form was provided ahead of the production day.
Preparer and/or Translator Certification
This subsection is designed for employees who need the help of a third party to fill out an Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 form.
In the entertainment industry, this subsection is most commonly used by parents whose children are featured in a production. If you are a parent, write your child’s name and information down in section 1, and write your name and information in the preparer’s subsection.
Although the USCIS guidelines read that the employer must complete section 2, employees tend to fill it out while an employer’s representative verifies the authenticity of the information.
The purpose of this section is to provide and verify documents attesting that:
It is common for both employees and employers to omit filling out this section. Also, few people know that the field labeled “Citizenship/Immigration Status” calls for a number. This number matches the election made by the employee in section 1 as follows:
List A, B, and C
This is the most confusing section for everyone. The USCIS has a great tool to help you navigate this section at https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/acceptable-documents
However, let’s break it down together:
You must provide:
A document for List A OR a document for List B AND a document for list C.
List A documents
Most of the time, documents that prove an employee’s identity contain a picture. Also, the document(s) presented will confirm employment eligibility.
The most commonly used documents are:
Less frequently, you may see an employee submit:
Both documents are to be listed in column A. If you need to retrieve an I-94 form, you can do so online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/. Chose “Get most recent I-94” and follow the prompts.
List B Documents
Most of the documents accepted in List B will also contain a picture. The most commonly used documents are:
Less frequently, you may see the following documents when hiring minors:
List C Documents
These documents only prove employment eligibility. In 99% of cases, employees provide their Social Security Card. Parents sometimes provide their child’s birth certificate instead.
To recap, here are the most commonly used “sets” of documents:
Option 1: U.S. passport (list A)
Option 2: U.S. Green Card (list A)
Option 3: Driver’s License (list B) and Social Security Card (list C)
Option 4: School ID Card (list B) and Birth Certificate (list C)
And here are the most commonly encountered issues:
Employer signature section
There are several fields in this subsection that can be filled out in advance since they won’t change during the course of the production:
The remaining fields must be filled out by the person verifying the authenticity of the documents (often, an assistant director, field coordinator or production assistant).
The field labeled “Today’s Date” should not reflect a date that complies with the requirements detailed earlier in this article.
This section is to be filled in by the employer. It is fairly straightforward. However, it is rarely used in the entertainment industry.
Given the complexity of this form, it’s easy to see how this task can become overwhelming quickly. At Castifi, we work with thousands of cast and crew members, all of whom are required to fill out employment eligibility verification I-9 forms.
If you only have a few employees to deal with, E-Verify is a great tool to look into. This is a service provided by the Department of Homeland Security and USCI. E-Verify allows employers to input an employee’s information and get instant confirmation that the documents they provided are legitimate.
E-Verify does require an initial setup, so make sure to start this process before production starts.
Since you will have to input information by hand, this process may not be good enough to deal with large volumes of cast and crew.
At Castifi, we have built tools that streamline this paperwork process, including an API (application programming interface) that allows us to verify documents instantly and securely. When freelancers join our platform, we collect their information, allowing us to auto-populate sections of common start work forms like an employment eligibility verification I-9 form. The additional information required is either provided by our payroll partners, or by the employees themselves through a secure page.
As with any form on Castifi, the document remains attached to the freelancer’s profile and can be downloaded by a production office representative within a few clicks (the production user must be logged in to their secure portal). With this system, it is simple and fast to download an entire day of production’s I-9 forms.
However, we work hard with our payroll partners to eliminate any unnecessary steps. Castifi’s powerful software can send your payroll provider I9 employee data along with time card information within a couple of clicks, and without any download required.
It is Castifi’s mission to provide a helping hand, especially when dealing with complex and time-consuming administrative problems in the entertainment industry. If you found this post helpful, please share it with others and subscribe to our newsletter for more content like this, as well as upcoming events, product updates, and new product features.