First, you called about the position. Then you nailed the interview. Now you’re being offered a job, and your employer is asking you to bring in your identification and fill out something called an I-9 form before you can start working. But you can’t find any of your IDs… you lost them! What do you do now?

Don’t let a missing ID stand between you and a new career. In order to apply for a job in the United States, the government requires that you present certain forms of official identification to your employer to demonstrate that you are legally allowed to work. By law, all employers must examine their employees’ documents and have them complete an I-9 form, which is a record of all an employee’s personal information, that they keep on file in case the government comes looking around to make sure they’re following the rules.

Maybe you lost your wallet when you were at the beach. Maybe you forgot to renew your license, passport, or work authorization before it expired. Maybe your car was broken into, and all your documents were inside. Regardless of what happened, there are ways to fix it, and there are important things that you should know to help make the best of the situation.

  1. Look at the List of Acceptable Documents

When you’ve lost one or more of your IDs, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you don’t already have another form of ID that would be acceptable. Be sure to take a close look at the government’s list of acceptable documents. This list tells you what IDs you are able to present to satisfy the requirements of the I-9 (be sure to pay special attention to which IDs need to be submitted together with others). Even though you may have lost your Social Security Card or State ID, you still might have a Birth Certificate, Passport, or other documents that you could submit instead.

  1. You Get to Choose What IDs to Submit

One of the most important things to keep in mind when your employer wants to see your IDs is that as the employee, you get to choose which forms of ID to submit. All employees have legal rights, and in fact, your employer is barred by law from refusing to accept a valid ID or telling you to bring in one specific type of ID instead of another. As long as your IDs fulfill all of the government’s requirements on the list of acceptable documents, your employer has to accept them.

  1. Going to Get a Replacement & Presenting a Receipt

Even if you don’t have any other acceptable documents, you still have options. In most cases, you can go back to the department or agency that originally issued the ID and get a replacement issued to you. Just tell them you lost your ID and they will help you through the steps to get another one.

Different agencies have different requirements that you must meet before they can issue a replacement, and you may have to wait weeks for your new ID to be mailed to you. In the meantime, you are still allowed to work. When you go to apply for a replacement, be sure to ask for a temporary ID or receipt as proof. You can present this receipt to your employer as a valid I-9 document and legally work for a period of 90 days while you are waiting for your new ID.

However, the receipt rule only applies to lost, stolen or damaged IDs. If you forgot to renew your ID, or if it was already expired when you lost it, you will need to go through the process to obtain a new, unexpired ID. If your expired ID was an Employment Authorization Card or Permanent Resident Card, this process could take much longer (however, immigrants with certain legal statuses, such as permanent residents, refugees, asylees, may have other valid IDs in their possession, such as a State ID or Social Security Card).

If you can’t obtain a replacement or a receipt, you may need to seek help from a legal expert. Employees and employers can also contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for help or clarification. When it comes to working in the U.S., the rules and procedures can be complicated, and even employers can struggle to understand them. Just remember: not every obstacle is insurmountable. If you know your options and your rights, you can make sure that you don’t lose out on that potentially life-changing career. And don’t forget to always keep your documents safe!

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