All U.S. employers must complete a Form I-9 for every newly hired employee, verifying their eligibility to work in this country. The current Form I-9 has been in use since March 2013, and since that date numerous rules relating to proper completion of it have exposed employers to significant risk of making inadvertent but costly technical errors. To address many of the problems with the 2013 Form I-9, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has created a new and enhanced Form I-9. Employers may continue to use the soon-to-be-obsolete Form I-9 through January 21, 2017; however beginning on January 22, 2017, employers must use the new Form. For ease:

November 14, 2016 – January 21, 2017: Employers may use either the old version, coded 03/08/2013 N (in the bottom left corner), OR the new version, coded 11/14/2016 N.

Beginning January 22, 2017: Employers must use the new version only.

Many of the enhancements to the Form I-9 are by way of drop-down menus or prompts, which in order to utilize require filling out the Form using Adobe Reader. Following are some of the enhancements that should help employers avoid making technical errors and avoid facing hefty fines:

  • Users can access instructions electronically, print the Form and clear the Form to start over;
  • Certain fields will validate that the entered data is within parameters (e.g., that the Social Security Number entered has the correct number of digits);
  • Embedded instructions are included for completing each field;
  • Additional spaces are provided to enter multiple preparers or the use of a translator, and a check box labeled “I did not use a preparer or translator” is included;
  • Various drop down lists and calendars are available;
  • Employees no longer have to provide all other names they have used; Section 1 now requires only that they provide all other last names. [This change was made to minimize discrimination and increase privacy for individuals with certain traits who may have been harmed by the earlier requirement.];
  • A new “Citizenship/Immigration Status” field has been added;
  • An area has been added to allow employers to note additional information (formerly written in the margins), such as “Temporary Protected Status” or the auto-extension of an individual’s work-authorized status;
  • The preparer will receive an error notification if all required fields have not been completed;
  • A Quick Response code is included; in brief, this code is useful in enforcement audits.

A number of Employer responsibilities remain unchanged by the new Form. Employers still are required to provide employees who are completing the Form a set of separate instructions. [These are available online with the new Form I-9.] Employers also must continue to review the original documentation provided by the employee, in an effort to verify authenticity. Employers must still print the Form to obtain handwritten signatures, file the printed I-9 forms in a secure manner, and use the printed I-9s for reverification purposes. And, finally, employers must continue to ensure that the I-9 process itself is non-discriminatory and that nothing learned in the process leads to discriminatory treatment.

While the deadline in which employers MUST use the new Form I-9 is two months away, there is little reason to delay and good reason to start using the new Form I-9 immediately. Faulkner Law Offices, PLLC has extensive experience in complying with I-9 requirements and with internal and regulatory audits. We welcome an opportunity to assist you with any employment related issues you may have.