By Karen L. Piper

On November 14, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a revised version of its Form I-9, “Employment Eligibility Verification.” Employers must start using the new form on January 22, 2017. There is a PDF version of the new form available that is fillable and savable. The PDF version, along with a paper version and a copy of the instructions, are available at www.uscis.gov/I-9.

Employers can choose to complete any or all sections of the new form on paper or using a computer connected to the Internet, or a combination of both. None of the fields can be left blank. If an employee does not fill out all of the required fields on the PDF version, the field will be highlighted in red when the employee clicks on the “Click to Finish” button at the bottom of the page. For example, if the employee has not used other last names, the employee cannot leave it blank. He is directed to fill in “N/A.” If the employee does not use four digits for her date of birth, the form prompts the employee to use four digits.

The employer is responsible for ensuring all parts of the I-9 form are properly completed and is subject to penalties if the form is not completed correctly. This means the employer must review and correct any errors in the employee’s portion of the form. 

The new Form I-9 contains content changes that are designed to address frequent points of confusion in prior versions of the form and includes new “smart” features that make it easier to complete the Form I-9 on a computer with Internet connection.

Content Changes to the New Form I-9

Several changes were made to Section 1 of the form. 

First, there is now a requirement that workers provide only other last names used in Section 1, rather than all other names used. This is to avoid possible discrimination issues and to protect the privacy of transgender and other individuals who have changed their first names.

Second, there is opportunity for employees, as applicable, to denote whether they are providing an alien registration number or a USCIS number.

Third, there is streamlined certification for certain foreign nationals.

Finally, there are additional spaces to enter multiple preparers and translators. If no preparer or translator is used, the worker can check a box that indicates, “I did not use a preparer or translator.”

There are a couple of changes to Section 2 of the new form.

First, there is a new field called “Citizenship/Immigration Status” that requires employers to input the number correlating with the citizenship or immigration status input by the employee in Section 1.

Second, employers now have a dedicated area to enter additional information, such as Temporary Protected Status and Optional Practical Training extensions, that employers formerly were required to notate in the margins of the form.

Additionally, the instructions have been separated from the form (in line with other USCIS forms) and include specific instructions for completing each field.

“Smart” Features of the New Form I-9

There are several new “smart” features that are designed with the intent to increase compliance and reduce errors. These include:

  • Validations to ensure information is entered correctly. For example, the form will validate the correct number of digits for a Social Security number or an expiration date on an identity document.
  • Drop-down lists and calendars.
  • Buttons that will allow users to access the instructions electronically, print the form, and clear the form to start over.
  • Automatically marked fields when they are not applicable to an employee’s status.
  • A quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, that generates once the form is printed that can be used to streamline enforcement audits.

Notes and Takeaways

It is important to remember that the new Form I-9 is not an electronic I-9 form. This means employers filling out the new Form I-9 using Adobe Reader still need to print the form, obtain handwritten signatures, store the forms in a safe place, monitor reverifications and updates with a calendaring system, and retype information into E-Verify, as required. Further, while there is no requirement that current employees fill out the new Form I-9, now is a good time to check to make sure you have forms on all current employees. Employers are required to keep I-9 forms for three years, or one year after the employee’s termination, whichever is later. Questions about the new form should be directed to experienced employment counsel, such as the author.

This article was written by Karen L. Piper, who is Secretary of the Board of Detroit SHRM, a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, and a Member of Bodman PLC, which represents employers, only, in Workplace Law. Ms. Piper can be reached at Bodman’s Troy office at (248) 743-6025 or kpiper@bodmanlaw.com.

Detroit SHRM encourages members to share these articles with others, inside and outside their organization, as long as its name and logo, and the author’s information are included in the re-post of the article.  January 2017.