HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Employers and employees are now required to complete the revised Form I-9 – Employment Eligibility Verification – released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Nov. 14, 2016.
  • As with prior versions of the form, the revised Form I-9 is to be completed by the employee and the employer. The employee must present acceptable documents indicating identity and employment authorization to the employer for inspection.
  • The new form includes a list of acceptable documents and introduces "smart" features, if completed on a computer. However, the Form I-9 still has to be printed and signed by the employee and employer. Employers also have the option of using a printable version to be completed by hand.

Employers and employees are now required to complete the revised Form I-9 – Employment Eligibility Verification – released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Nov. 14, 2016. Use of the revised Form I-9 began Jan. 22, 2017, and it is used to verify the identity and employment authorization for all individuals – citizens and noncitizens – hired in the U.S. Compliance with the requirements of the Form I-9 is crucial in light of the anticipated rigorous enforcement of immigration laws and regulations by the new Trump Administration.

General Requirements of the Form I-9

As with prior versions of the form, the revised Form I-9 is to be completed by the employee and the employer. The employee must present acceptable documents indicating identity and employment authorization to the employer for inspection. The employer must physically examine the documents and determine whether the documents reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the employee. To confirm whether a document is genuine, the employer should consult the Handbook for Employers, which provides a detailed discussion about and examples of the documents acceptable for verifying identity and employment authorization.

Employees must complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 anytime between the date the employee accepts an offer of employment and the end of the employee's first day of employment. Employers must examine the employee's documents and complete Section 2 of the form within the first three days of employment. The employer signatory of Section 2 must be the person who inspected the employee's documents.

The completed and signed Form I-9 must be retained by the employer either for three years after the date of hire or for one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later. Completed Form I-9s must be available for inspection by authorized U.S. government officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Labor or U.S. Department of Justice.

A Spanish-language version of the Form I-9 is available, but for employers and employees in Puerto Rico only. Spanish-speaking employers and employees in the 50 states and other U.S. territories may use the Spanish-language version for reference only and must complete the English-language version.

The New Form I-9

The list of acceptable documents that establish identity and employment authorization has not changed under the new form. In addition, the new form is designed to be easier to complete on a computer. The new form introduces "smart" features, such as on-screen embedded instructions, drop-down lists, error messages and calendars for filling in dates. However, the Form I-9 still has to be printed and signed by the employee and employer. Employers also have the option of using a printable version to be completed by hand. The instructions are contained on a separate document, in addition to the instructions embedded in the computer version.

Changes to Section 1, to be completed by the employee, include:

  • request for "other last names used" by the employee, rather than "other names used"
  • streamlining of certification for certain foreign nationals, by requiring the Alien Registration number, I-94 number or foreign passport number, not both the Alien Registration number or I-94 number and the foreign passport number;
  • auto-fill of certain areas of Section 1 when the employee selects citizenship status
  • ability to enter multiple preparers of translators of the form who assisted the employee in completing the form, and a supplemental page for the preparer or translator

Changes to Section 2, to be completed by the employer, include:

  • error messages on the smart form for documents entered incorrectly by the employer (i.e., an error message appears if an employer selects "U.S. Passport" as a verification document for an employee that has selected a non-corresponding citizenship status)
  • auto-fill of certain areas once a verifying document is selected
  • an "Additional Information" box for use by the employer to notate a variety of additional information, such as employment authorization extensions, additional document description or other relevant information.

Employees and employers must fill in "N/A" to a question if there is no information to provide and the Form I-9 is being completed by hand.

The USCIS website has links and instructions for the following: the smart form, the printable version, the supplemental form for preparers and/or translators and the Spanish-language version.

Given the expected renewed focus on strict compliance with immigration laws and regulations, employers are advised to review their immigration compliance practices, including adopting the current Form I-9 and ensuring the processes for completing the form are fully compliant with the law and regulations.