The USCIS has released a newly-revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The revised form contains enhancements intended to facilitate computerized completion. As of January 22, 2017, employers must use only the revised edition, dated November 14, 2016. Until that time, employers may use either the new, November 14, 2016, edition or the prior version, dated March 8, 2013.

Form I-9 is Mandatory for all U.S. Employers

This change affects all employers. The Form I-9 is a mandatory part of the hiring and employment process for all employees in the U.S. Employers face substantial civil penalties for I-9 violations and potential criminal liability for employing undocumented workers. Compliance includes utilizing the correct I-9 edition valid at the time of I-9 completion.

What has Changed?

The Form I-9 changes are not tied to changes in the law. The changes are, in large part, technological changes. The new form edition contains a variety of drop-down lists, calendars and pop-up instructions. There is a space for the employer (or authorized representative) to note additional information. When printed, the completed forms will contain an automatically generated QR code.

Internal Audit is Form I-9 Best Practice

Each I-9 failure to comply violation carries with it a potential civil penalty ranging from $216 to $2,156, per incident. Thus, employers should review their current I-9 procedures. The law contains greatly increased penalties for other I-9- related violations such as document fraud, discrimination, and document abuse. Companies must have proper I-9 policies, as well as sufficient safeguards to assure that the policies are carried out correctly, without exception. Internal audits provide a valuable tool and are a well-recognized best practice for I-9 compliance.

In recent years, the US government has increased focus on I-9 compliance with audits and enforcement actions undertaken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. This era of compliance has led many employers to institute proactive, internal, audits. The new administration’s declared hard line on immigration compliance makes this self-monitoring vital for U.S. employers. The goal of such audits is to identify any failures or errors proactively. While I-9 omissions or errors cannot be cured retroactively, good faith efforts to comply carry substantial weight and reduce the potential penalties, if and when the government conducts an I-9 audit.