United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has officially published the long awaited revised Form I-9. The new Form I-9 and instructions can be found at https://www.uscis.gov/i-9.

The clock is now ticking— While employers may begin using the new Form I-9 immediately, all employers are required to implement use of the newly revised Form I-9 by January 22, 2017. All previous versions of Form I-9 will be invalid after this January date.

The new I-9 brings with it some big changes aimed at reducing technical errors and making the I-9 easier to complete in a downloadable version. The new I-9 includes some impressive new features to ensure information is entered properly, such as drop-downs, field checks, and instructions accessed by moving your computer cursor over the question mark symbol associated with the field.

While this new Form I-9 is completed on a computer, it is not considered an electronic Form I-9 that is governed by the electronic I-9 storage regulations. Rather, the Form I-9 is to be printed, signed, and stored consistent with the proper manner for storing hard copy I-9s. However, employers using an electronic I-9 platform provided by a vendor should ensure that their vendor’s product is updated to reflect the changes incorporated in this new revision – any issues of noncompliance with vendor-provided electronic I-9s are the responsibility of the employer, not the vendor, when discovered in the context of an ICE audit.

Here are a few other important changes employers should note:

  • USCIS has added a new “Citizenship/Immigration Status” field at the top of Section 2, where the employer must select or write the number corresponding with the Citizenship/Immigration status selected by the employee in Section 1 of the I-9.
  • If the employee does not use a preparer or translator to assist in completing Section 1, he or she must indicate so on a new check box labeled, “I did not use a preparer or translator.”
  • There is a separate supplemental form to enter multiple preparers and translators, also available on https://www.uscis.gov/i-9.
  • There is a dedicated area to enter additional information that employers are currently required to notate in the margins of the Form (such as TPS extensions, OPT STEM extensions, H-1B portability, etc.).
  • It requires employees to provide only other last names used in Section 1, rather than all other names used.
  • It removes the requirement that aliens authorized to work must provide both their Form I-94 number and foreign passport information in Section 1.

On a more technical level, the new instructions provide some interesting guidance on abbreviations. The new proposed instructions note that the drop-down lists include “the universally used abbreviations” and specifies what to enter on the form. Here are two excerpted examples:

Full name of List B Document What to Enter on Form
Driver’s license issued by a State or outlying possession of the United States Driver’s license issued by state/territory
ID card issued by a State or outlying possession of the United States ID card issued by state/territory
Full name of List C Document What to Enter on Form
Social Security Account Number card without restrictions Social Security Card (Unrestricted)
Certification of Birth Abroad (Form FS-545) Form FS-545

There has been some concern on what this means for employers in light of the guidance in the I-9 Handbook, which currently states that “[y]ou may use common abbreviations to document the document title or issuing authority, e.g., DL for driver’s license and SSA for Social Security Administration.”

USCIS addresses this issue in the new instructions, and recognizes “you may choose to use these abbreviations or any other common abbreviation to enter the document title or issuing authority.”

And this brings us to an important point. For employers who rely on the I-9 Handbook, USCIS has announced on its website that the I-9 handbook will be updated soon, but suggests employers refer to the new Form I-9 instructions for the most up-to-date information.