• Time to Start Using New Form I-9
  • February 9, 2017 | Authors: Mary Ellen Burggraf Jordan; Laurie M. Riley
  • Law Firms: Jones Walker LLP - New Orleans Office; Jones Walker LLP - Miami Office
  • Now that you’ve mastered the I-9 form, it’s time to learn how to use the new one. On November 14, 2016, USCIS released a new Form I-9 (copy attached). Employers are permitted to use the previous version of the form only until the end of this week. By January 22, 2017, this Sunday, you must use the new Form I-9, which is a "smart" form because it can be filled out online and includes drop-down menus, hover text with instructions, and error messages. Employers have the option of printing the form to be filled in by hand, completing all sections on one computer, completing the sections on different computers, or using any combination of these options. The smart form, however, does not meet the requirements for an electronic form under the regulations. Thus, any forms completed online must be printed and signed by the employee and employer representative. It can then be scanned for electronic storage. If you currently work with a third party for electronic completion and/or storage of your I-9s, they may have addressed electronic signature requirements.

    Here’s a summary of the other changes:
    • The instructions are contained on a separate document (in addition to instructions provided when hovering over fields).
    • Section 1
      • Asks the employee for “other last names used” rather than "other names used"
      • Streamlines the section for foreign nationals authorized to work in the U.S.—only requiring the I-94 or passport number, rather than both
      • When the employee checks status as either a citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien authorized to work, the remaining fields in section 1 and documents to be presented in section 2 are tailored to that classification
      • The ability to enter more than one preparer or translator who assists the employee in completing the form; if this box is checked, the smart (online) version will ask how many, and additional certification sections can be added if necessary
      • Users must enter N/A in any fields that they previously would have left blank; for example, if there is nothing to enter in the fields asking for a middle initial, apartment number, or Social Security number, those fields can no longer be left blank; employers who print and fill out the form by hand must keep this in mind
    • Section 2
      • Error messages for documents entered incorrectly 
      • A box entitled “additional information” for comments related to documents
    • When the employer prints the completed form, a quick response (QR) code is automatically generated, which can be read by most QR readers.
    Clearly, there are advantages to completing the Form I-9 online. The "smart" features should help employers immediately catch and correct errors while completing the form and make it possible to quickly identify potential problems with the employee’s documentation and work eligibility. Indeed, USCIS notes the "changes are designed to reduce errors and enhance form completion using a computer."

    This is also a good time to conduct annual or semiannual audits of your I-9s to make corrections, discard forms that no longer need to be maintained, and review immigration compliance practices.