Under federal law, all employers who hire individuals to work within the U.S. must complete an I-9 for each employee within the first three days of employment. On November 14, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published its newest version of Form I-9, which must be used by U.S. employers no later than January 22, 2017.
The new I-9 provides instructions that aim to mitigate the amount of technical errors that appear on completed forms, which, in turn, may reduce the number of fines employers would have to pay for incorrect forms. Additionally, the I-9 will include some structural changes, as well as new fields.
The most considerable changes to the I-9 are the “smart” features that are meant to check for errors. By having a “smart” version of the I-9, users will be able to access and fill-in the Form on the USCIS’s website. Some of the new features are contained in both the online and paper version; however, the online Form has extra “smart” features that allow for drop-down lists and buttons to access specific instructions for each section. Both the “smart” I-9 and the paper I-9 may be found on the USCIS website.
The “smart” features are provided in addition to more detailed instructions so that the likelihood of making a technical error is reduced even further. For example, both the online and paper Forms provide a set number of spaces for numerical information, such as Social Security numbers or important dates, so that the individual enters the correct amount of digits in the proper format.
Additionally, the “smart” I-9 helps guarantee that the information provided is consistent with the employee’s indicated citizenship or immigration status. In Section 1 of the I-9, an employee checks the citizenship or immigration status box that applies to him or her. Once a box is checked, the “smart” form will automatically fill in fields that don’t apply to the designated status with “N/A” to avoid confusion and ensure that only relevant information is provided.
Other changes include multiple spaces for preparers and translators; a new “Citizenship/Immigration Status” field; and a dedicated area to enter information such as Temporary Protected Status or Optional Practical Training extensions.
The new I-9 may either be completed online, or printed out and filled-in manually. However, it is important to note that the “smart” online version is not considered an electronic I-9 under relevant regulations. Therefore, even though it is possible to fill out the I-9 online, employers must still print the completed form and obtain handwritten signatures.
Employers can begin using the new form as soon as possible so that their HR documents and policies are in order and compliant with the new Form I-9 well before the January 22 deadline.