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Keeping Passports on file

Our company often does business overseas. For our I-9s I do not keep any copies of IDs on file. Would it be legal to keep a copy of the passport on file for the people that do the international travel?


It is easier to understand this issue if we separate it from I-9s. The I-9s are really not relevant. The company has a legitimate business need to know that the employees engaged in international travel have a valid passport, just as the company would have a legitimate business need to have a copy of the drivers license of an employee hired to drive a bus.¬†Having a copy of the passport also allows the company to help an employee who is in a foreign country and becomes ill, loses his or her passport, is detained by authorities, or — heaven forbid — kidnapped or the target of a terrorist attack. So it is for the employees safety that you would keep a copy of the passport.

So yes, you can legitimately make a copy of each employees passport. However, that copy should NOT be kept in the personnel file with other employment records. It will show the employees age, date of birth, and citizenship and may contain other information that would be illegal discrimination if considered as a factor in employment decisions such as promotions, training, hiring, firing, etc. Therefore, you should keep the copies of passports in the employees confidential file with medical information, or in a separate file.

It would be unlawful of you to require that all employees (even those who do not travel on business) furnish you with a copy of their passport. It would also be unlawful of you to demand that employees use a passport for their I-9 document, rather than other acceptable documents.


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This entry was posted on Friday, September 18th, 2009 at 10:32 am and is filed under
Human Resources Management, Labor Laws.
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