By now, all employers must be using the new Form I-9 (with revision date 11/14/2016 N) issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in November 2016.
The form is designed to be easier to fill out on a computer and is accompanied by expanded instructions. In addition, employers should be aware of several changes.
When The New Form Must Be Used
The new form is the only form that can be used by employers after January 22, 2017, and it must be used for all new employees, as well as for reverifications and rehires. You can no longer use prior versions of the form. You do not need to complete the new Form I-9 for existing employees if you previously confirmed their employment eligibility with a prior version of the form.
What The New Form Is And Is Not
The new “smart” Form I-9 can be completed on a computer but it is still, essentially, a paper form. When you access the new form on the USCIS website, you can either complete the form on your computer or print out a blank copy and complete it manually. Either way, you must still treat it as a paper form – meaning you must print out a hard copy of the Form I-9, and you and the employee must manually sign and date the form. The version available on the USCIS website cannot be signed electronically.
Although the new Form I-9 provided by the USCIS cannot be signed electronically, the USCIS does allow employers to use an electronic Form I-9 with an electronic signature function, provided certain requirements are met. As the USCIS Handbook for Employers explains:
“USCIS provides a Portable Document Format (.pdf) fillable-printable Form I-9 from its website, uscis.gov. In addition, you may generate and retain Form I-9 electronically as long as the employee receives instructions for completing the form and:
- The resulting form is legible;
- No change is made to the name, content, or sequence of the data elements and instructions;
- No additional data elements or language are inserted; and
- The standards specified in the regulations are met. (8 CFR Part 274a.2(e), (f), (g), (h) and (i) as applicable.)”
- If you have been using an electronic Form I-9 with an electronic signature function, ensure that the form has been updated to reflect the changes to the new Form I-9. If you use a vendor that provides electronic Forms I-9, you should confirm that the vendor incorporated the changes into their electronic forms.
What’s New In The New Form?
With the new Form I-9 comes a number of changes, including changes to how the form must be completed. Certain fields in Sections 1 and 2 have been modified. The instructions, which used to be part of the form, were separated and expanded to 15 pages. The instructions provide more detail on how each portion of the form must be completed, and they must be made available to employees when they are completing the Form I-9. There is a new supplemental certification to use if more than one preparer or translator assists the employee in completing the form.
Following is a summary of the key changes to the new Form I-9:
General Changes To The Form I-9:
- If a section is not applicable, you cannot leave it blank. Instead, you must enter “N/A.”
- Whenever a signature is required on the Form I-9, the date box that accompanies the signature has been changed to read “Today’s Date.” You must enter the date the form was signed; do not backdate.
Changes To Section 1 Of The Form I-9:
- Employees now have to enter only other last names they have used (employees used to have to enter any other names used).
- If an employee checks Box 4 indicating he/she is an alien authorized to work, the employee now must provide only one of the three document numbers listed (employees used to have to enter both the Form I-94 admission number and a foreign passport).
- If an employee did not use a preparer or translator to complete the form, the employee must check the box in Section 1 confirming that. If the employee did use a preparer or translator, then the other box must be checked and the preparer/translator must complete the applicable questions. If more than one preparer/translator was used, additional certifications must be completed.
Changes To Section 2 Of The Form I-9:
- At the top of the page, employers must record the “Citizenship/Immigration Status” entered by the employee in Section 1.
- The form now contains a dedicated area for additional information so employers no longer have to write information in the margins of the form.
Form I-9 Compliance Is Essential
Compliance with Form I-9 requirements is an essential business practice. You are responsible for reviewing and ensuring that employees properly complete Section 1 of the Form I-9. You must also properly complete Section 2, review documents presented by the employee, and sign and date the form.
You can face costly fines if you don’t properly complete the Form I-9. Fines for failure to properly complete, retain and/or make the forms available for inspection used to range from $110 to $1,100 per violation. These fines increased in 2016, and paperwork violations now carry fines ranging from $216 to $2,156 per violation.