Home / Insights / Navigating Name Discrepancies in Form I-9: Can Employers Accept Supporting Documents with Different Names?

Navigating Name Discrepancies in Form I-9: Can Employers Accept Supporting Documents with Different Names?

by | Oct 17, 2023 | Compliance and Enforcement, Immigration Tips

Happy Fall, everyone!

Last month I flew to Australia to participate in a Marathon there – and, of course, explore the amazing things the country has to offer. 

The entire experience was incredible, and it got me thinking about how working in HR is kind of like a marathon – particularly where the onboarding process is concerned. Not only can it feel like a long slog getting through each part of the process, making sure you do each part correctly requires training and practice to build up your compliance “muscles.”

And you don’t even have a nice view while running those “HR miles”!

That’s why my hope is to make navigating this part of your job as easy as possible by teaching you the things you actually need to know to succeed and – dare I say it – even making it a little bit fun along the way 🥳

In this newsletter, you’ll find information on how to handle name discrepancies during onboarding and learn about an amazing new FREE I-9 masterclass I’m offering.


Navigating Name Discrepancies in Form I-9: Can Employers Accept Supporting Documents with Different Names?

Navigating the complex terrain of Form I-9 verification is crucial for both employers and employees. 

One common issue that arises is when there is a discrepancy between the name entered by the employee in Section 1 of Form I-9 and the name on the employee’s supporting document. 

This raises the question: Can employers accept such documents, or does it pose a risk to their compliance? 

Bottom line: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidelines say employers may accept a document or combination of documents listed in the Form I-9 List of Acceptable Documents with a different name than the name entered in Section 1 – if the document reasonably appears to be genuine and relate to the employee. 

Every situation is different, though, so let’s dive into some real-life scenarios where names play the starring role, and decode the USCIS guidance with a splash of practical wisdom 🙂 

> The Mystery of Giselle’s Last Name: A Tale of Marriage and Licenses

Giselle Carson hands you a driver’s license proudly bearing her maiden name – Carson – while penning Giselle Navarro in Section 1 of the I-9 form.  

What to do? 

According to USCIS, if the document appears authentic and relates to the employee, you’re in the clear. In this case, Giselle might be embracing newlywed bliss, explaining the mismatch between her license and Section 1. 

> Garcia Reyes or Just Garcia? The Case of the Two Last Names

Your newest team member jots down Garcia Reyes in Section 1, but provides documents with only Garcia. 

USCIS says you can accept the documents if they seem genuine and relate to the employee. Perhaps your new hire’s creativity is spilling onto paper but not official documents.  You can embrace this creativity.

> Slight Spelling Shifts: When ‘Allen’ Becomes ‘Alan’

Ah, the subtle art of spelling! You glance at the I-9 form, noticing a slight tweak – “Allen” in Section 1, and “Alan” on the document. 

USCIS again gives a nod – if the document contains a slight spelling variation, you can accept that document – provided the employee provides a reasonable explanation. 

Maybe it’s a generational spelling quirk or a tribute to ancestry. As long as the document feels genuine, that slight variation won’t cause a fuss!

> Nicknames vs. Legal Names

Every office has its share of nicknames – but the I-9 form demands legal monikers. 

So, what if your new hire jots down a nickname in Section 1 while the official documents have the legal name?

USCIS requires legal names in Section 1. While the office can call the new hire “Janey,” Section 1 must have her as “Jane.” 

Best Practices for Employers

Document Verification. Employers should carefully examine the supporting document for authenticity, checking for security features and ensuring it relates to the employee. If you determine a document containing a different name does not reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee, you may ask the employee to provide other documents from the Lists of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9.

Employee Verification. If a supporting document with a different name is presented, employers should ask the employee about the reason for the discrepancy. Employees may have valid reasons. Attach a brief memo to the employee’s Form I-9 stating the reason for the name discrepancy, along with any supporting documentation provided. 

Note – An employee may provide documentation to support a name change, but is not required to do so. 

Documentation. Employers should maintain clear records of the explanation provided by the employee and the supporting document submitted, if any.  

✅✅ Training. That’s right, two checkmarks – because I can’t overemphasize this point! All personnel responsible for Form I-9 verification should undergo regular training to stay up to date on this rapidly evolving area.  

👉Take advantage of free and paid webinars and resources offered by experts to improve your understanding and application of these tools.

Real world takeaway: Employers can accept supporting documents with different or slightly different names on Form I-9, provided they appear genuine and reasonably relate to the employee presenting them. 

Join Me for a FREE Masterclass to Demystify the New Form I-9

I will provide practical guidance and tips to ensure your compliance journey is smooth sailing.

When: October 19th from 2 to 3 pm EST

Register HERE 

Together, we can foster compliant, inclusive, and diverse workforces while successfully navigating the intricacies of immigration laws. Let’s keep the conversation going! 💪💼 



Get in Touch with Us

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Marks Gray P.A.

Connect with Us