USCIS’s revised edition of the I-9 employment eligibility verification form, dated 11/14/16, will become mandatory for employers on January 22, 2017. Until that date, employers may continue to use the version dated 03/08/13.
The new edition, which was released in November, does not change the key substantive questions on Form I-9 or the list of acceptable identity and work authorization documents, but it contains some format changes that are intended to reduce completion errors when the form is filled out on a computer. These include auto-population of certain fields, rudimentary error checking to ensure that all fields on the form are completed, dropdown lists to aid in the selection of identity and work authorization documents and a new text field that allows employers to enter annotations on special situations, such as employment authorization extensions for STEM OPT applicants, F-1 cap-gap beneficiaries and TPS beneficiaries.
The new “smart” I-9 form may be filled out on a computer or by hand. Although the new edition is optimized for electronic completion, it does not qualify as an electronic I-9 form and it does not have an electronic signature function. If completed online through the USCIS website, Form I-9 must be printed out and signed by hand by the employer, the employee and, if applicable, any preparer or translator.
Electronic signatures remain acceptable on I-9 forms that are completed through third-party software, provided that they meet government guidelines.
What This Means for Employers
Employers should ensure that the new form is integrated into their employment verification systems and processes by January 22, 2017. As a reminder, a new regulation that took effect on August 1, 2016 increased the penalties for I-9 violations and other employer compliance infractions.