Q - How long must an employer retain an employee's I-9 form?
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A - The INS Handbook for Employers at page 16 states:
"If you are an employer, you must retain the I-9 for 3 years after the date employment begins or 1 year after the date the person's employment is terminated, whichever is later.  If you are an agricultural association, agricultural employer, or farm labor contractor, you must retain the I-9 for 3 years after the date employment begins for persons you recruit or refer for a fee."
This means for nonagricultural employers, you should retain I-9s for all current employees for as long as they are employed AND continue to maintain them for a year after they are terminated.  However, if an employee leaves before they have been with the employer for 3 years, the employer must maintain the I-9 for longer than 1 year from the date employment is terminated.  So if an employee leaves after 1 year, the employer must maintain that employee's I-9 for 2 years after they are terminated.  If the employer only maintained this employee's I-9 for 1 year after termination, s/he would have only maintained it for 2 years, which is contrary to the Handbook's "whichever is later" guidance.  While the Handbook's guidance is not a model of clarity, it appears to say that all I-9 forms have to be maintained for a minimum of 3 years.  Note this causes confusion only for employees who leave an employer before completing 3 years of service.  For employees who leave after 3 or more years of service, an employer must retain I-9 forms for 1 year after an employee leaves his/her employ.