U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is at it again. On November 14, 2016, USCIS published a new Form I-9 for employers to begin using immediately for new hires or re-verifications. While it is recommended that employers begin using the new Form I-9 immediately, employers may continue using the version dated 03/08/2013 N until January 21, 2017. After January 21, 2017, employers must only use the just released Form I-9, dated 11/14/2016 N.

By way of background, under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers are required to complete a Form I-9 for each new employee hired. The purpose of the Form I-9 is to verify the identity of each new employee and ensure that the new employee is authorized to work in the United States. The Form I-9 contains a list of acceptable documents for establishing an employee’s identity and authorization to work. Those documents include a U.S. Passport, Permanent Resident Card, driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate, among others. More importantly, federal law requires employers to physically examine each document—with the employee physically present—to determine if the document reasonably appears to be genuine and relates to the employee presenting it.

The changes to the Form I-9 released this November are intended to accomplish two goals: (i) reduce the number of technical errors on the Form I-9; and (ii) make it easier for employers completing the form on their computer as downloaded from the USCIS website. For example, here are some of the changes:

  • Section 1: instead of requiring employees to provide all other names used, only other last names used will be required.
  • New prompts to ensure information being completed electronically is entered correctly; drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates; on-screen instructions for each field; easy access to the full instructions; and an option to re-set the form and start over.
  • Permits employers to enter multiple preparers and translators on the form.
  • Dedicated area for including additional information rather than making notations on the margins.

In addition, the instructions have been separated from the Form I-9 and now include detailed instructions for completing each field.