On November 14, 2016, USCIS issued a new “smart” version of Form I-9 (“Employment Eligibility Verification”), which can be downloaded from the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/i-9. Employers may use this form immediately, but they must use it on and after January 22, 2017. 

According to USCIS, the new Form I-9 will facilitate compliance by guiding users through a step-by-step process that will help reduce errors in completing the form. The new form (1)includes alerts when required fields are left blank or incorrectly completed, (2) helps employers know when the information provided by employees is not consistent with employment-authorized status as indicated in section 1 of the form, and (3) adds drop-down menus from the List A or List B and List C document fields of section 2 that help employers know which documents to accept.

The new Form I-9 also includes content-based changes. With regard to section 1, USCIS has made the following four changes:  

  1. USCIS replaced the “Other Names Used” field with “Other Last Names Used”; this change helps avoid discrimination issues and heightens privacy protection for transgender individuals along with others who have changed their first names.
  2. Employees must now indicate whether the number indicated on section 1 of the form is an Alien Registration number or a USCIS number. 
  3. Certain foreign nationals (“FNs”) must enter either their foreign passport information or their Form I-94 number information, but not both as in prior versions.
  4. The new Form I-9 allows multiple preparers/translators to participate in the completion of the form. Each preparer and translator must complete a separate “Preparer and/or Translator” section. If an employee does not use a preparer or translator, the employee will check a new box labeled “I did not use a preparer or translator.”

Section 2 of the new Form I-9 has two additional fields that employers must complete: 

  1. USCIS added a new field to the top of section 2 labeled “Citizenship/Immigration Status.” This new field requires the employer to input the number correlating with the citizenship or immigration status inputted by the employee in section 1.  
  2. USCIS included a new field that allows employers to input additional information that is currently notated in the margins of the Form I-9. 

While the new “smart” Form I-9 may improve proper completion for compliance purposes, it is impossible to predict whether it will be 100 percent foolproof. This may be important as the new presidential administration attempts to follow up on its announced intention to increase worksite enforcement efforts. In addition, employers should know that a completed new “smart” Form I-9 does not satisfy the government’s current definition of an “electronic I-9.” This means that employers must still print a copy of the form to proceed with their normal signing, storing, and reverification practices that already should be in place for previous paper Forms I-9. 

Employers that have questions about the new Form I-9, or any related aspect of the employment verification process or worksite enforcement, should contact their Epstein Becker Green attorney for help in navigating this increasingly important and complex area of compliance.