New “Smart” Form I-9 Released by USCIS

By Michael A. Shadiack & Michael J. P. Schewe

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) recently released an updated version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.  This new version, dated November 11, 2016, will become mandatory on January 22, 2017; however, employers are allowed to use the new or current version of the Form I-9 until January 21, 2017.

Form I-9 requirements were established in November 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”).  IRCA prohibits employers from hiring people, including U.S. citizens, for employment in the United States without verifying their identity and employment authorization on Form I-9.

The new Form I-9, dubbed the “Smart I-9” for its expanded digital capabilities, contains a number of welcomed features:

  1. An “Additional Information” field, where the recorder can write in notes that were previously relegated to the margins.
  2. Clarification that the “Other Names Used” field requests only information about other last names used.
  3. Functionality to add more data regarding preparers and translators, including a supplemental page in cases involving multiple preparers or translators.
  4. Streamlined certification of certain foreign nationals.
  5. Additional digital functions, including: “hover over” prompts with tips on proper recording; web-enabled buttons that connect directly to the form’s instructions (which are now separate from the form itself); an automatic check for blank fields and obvious errors; drop-down menus that increase uniformity and avoid recorder error; and a quick-response code box that facilitates auditor review.
  6. While much has changed, much remains the same.  Of note, USCIS cautions employers that the added electronic capabilities do not alter the requirements that forms be printed, signed, stored and re-verified pursuant to existing regulations.

For more information on the new I-9, visit USCIS’s revamped I-9 Central.  The updated Guidance for Completing Form I-9 [the M-274] should be issued in early January 2017.

Given a political climate trending toward enforcement, coupled with the increased penalties approved by the Department of Homeland Security, employers should make I-9 compliance a focus.  Consider giving your human resources department a formal training on the new form and/or the proper procedures to conduct a self-audit.  Connell Foley can assist you with these efforts.