Decoding I-9’s at Your Fitness Business

6 min read



In my humble opinion, there is really nothing fun about completing an I-9 for a new employee. One year I completed over 700 of them so I may have burned out on them. That being said, any business in the U.S. with employees is required to verify their employee’s eligibility to work in the country by completing an I-9, so, I keep doing them.

Though the government has provided us with seven pages of instructions for a two-page form, it can still be confusing. To make it easier to digest, I wanted to share a few tips so you can more accurately complete, retain and eventually destroy these documents. I am definitely not an expert, so please don’t take this as legal advice. There are lots of resources out there to help you complete these forms, this is just what I find works the best for me.

Use the Correct Form

First, make sure you are using the most up-to-date version of the I-9. The first 6 pages are instructions on how to complete the form, pages 7 and 8 are the “To Do and Retain” portion, and page 9 is the ABC of supporting ID documentation.

Get it Done on Day One

Do not delay, just rip the band-aid off and get this thing done. Employees need to complete their portion of the I-9 by the end of their first day, so consider making this part of your orientation process. A day or so before a new team member starts, I send him/her an email noting that we will need to complete this on day one. I also remind them to bring their ID. Keep in mind that, legally, you cannot tell an employee which ID(s) they should bring to verify their eligibility but you can help provide some clarity. Show them the ABC list (page 9 of the I-9).

1-9-circledIf somebody wants to use their valid U.S. Passport (List A), that is the only form of ID that they need. If they want to use their driver license (List B), they need something else, like a social security card or a birth certificate (List C). [clearfix]

New Employee Part

Your new employee need to fill out the Employee Information and Attestation part (page 7) no later than their first day. This should include their full legal name, citizenship status, signature and date. They should fill out:i9-red-boxes

Employer Part

This is where the fun kicks in! This portion needs to be completed within 3 days of a new team member’s first day. Let’s look at the top of page 8, first. You should print the Last Name, First Name, Middle Initial, exactly how your new team member printed it on the previous page. Then, using the documentation you copied, fill in the blanks. Here are a couple of examples, one using the most common documentation:


In the employer certification portion, I’ll share my trick with you: I fill out everything except for the signature, date of employment and date of completing the form. I make copies of that and then use that as a template for any new hire I-9’s I have to complete. That I way I do not have to write out an address 40 times a year. Remember that you must sign and date within 3 days of the first day of employment.


How to Store the Forms and How Long to Keep Them

There are multiple ways to do this but what works the best for me is I keep two binders: one for active employees, one for inactive. In the active binder, I place alphabet tabs in it, and store the I-9’s, along with a copy of any backup documentation, by last name. When somebody leaves the company I transfer them to the inactive folder. In the inactive folder, I have three sets of alphabet tabs, one for the current year, one for next year, and one for the year following. Here is why: when an employee leaves your company, you have to keep their I-9 for either one year past their term date OR three years past their hire date, whichever is greater. This may make your eyes cross a bit, but hang in there, here are a couple of examples.

  • Example 1: You hired somebody on 1/1/2015 and they got a dream job offer in Maui so they left you on 7/1/2015. For retention requirements, one year post term would be 7/1/2016, three years post hire would be 1/1/2018, which means you would need to keep this I-9 until 1/1/2018 (this is where those correct dates on the form come in handy).
  • Example 2: You hire somebody on 1/1/2015 and a few years down the road, they hit the lottery and retire on 2/1/2018. One year post term would be 2/1/2019, three years post hire would be 1/1/2018 so you would need to retain it until 2/1/2019.

By storing the termed employee I-9’s by the date required for retention, I can pop those papers in the shredder the minute the retention requirements are up – no need to keep things longer than necessary.

Lock those binders in a drawer (there is a ton of personal info on those sheets), keep the I-9’s separate from personnel files, and check with your state and local governments because some have their own version of the I-9 they want you to keep.

Though definitely not exciting, little things like this can help alleviate future headaches when trying to organize the personnel and HR functions of your fitness business.

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About the Author: Kelli Sweeting

I'm Coach Kelli, a devoted CrossFit gym owner with 15 years of experience managing my facility, along with owning yoga studios and wellness centers. Beyond the fitness world, I have a passion for cooking, cherish moments with my children and family, and find joy in spending time outside. Having experienced the highs and lows, I'm dedicated to leveraging my expertise to help you grow and succeed on your fitness journey.