U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) published a new two-page I-9 Form on Friday, March 8, 2013, that is effective immediately.  USCIS has provided a 60-day grace period, until May 7, 2013, in which employers may still use the old I-9 forms.  The new I-9 form is available on USCIS’s website at:  http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-9.pdf

What are the differences?

Other than the obvious expansion of the form from one page to two pages, the following are some of the key differences:

Section 1

  • Employees may provide email addresses and telephone numbers.  If the employee chooses not to provide such information, he/she may mark “N/A” on the form.  However, the form itself does not indicate that these fields are optional; only the instructions do.
  • A new line asking for the I-94 number has been added, making it easier for individuals with temporary work status to provide that information.
  • Individuals providing an I-94 number also need to provide their passport number and country of issuance information.
  • The section for preparer and translator certification is more prominent than in the old form, illustrating how important USCIS deems this information.
  • A line stating “Employer Completes Next Page” is placed on the bottom of the first page, with the intention to separate the responsibilities between the first page (for the employee) and second page (for the employer).

Section 2

  • Additional and improved boxes have been added to the “List A” documents column.  The new form allows for three documents, whereas the old form barely had room for two.
  • List B and List C columns added clearly distinguishable fields: Document Title, Issuing Authority, Document Number, and expiration date.  These distinct fields should help the employers complete the necessary information more effectively.
  • A line that very clearly asks the employer to provide the first day of employment information is added.  The old form asks for this critical information as well but it was not as obvious.
  • Large boxes are added for employers to provide contact information about the company and the person who certifies the form.  This helps employers avoid inadvertently missing any required contact information.

Section 3

This section remains similar to the old version, other than some minor format changes made to improve readability and provide clearer instructions on what information is sought.

Significant Changes for Employers?

The form is designed to collect specific information in specific boxes or slots with reduced ambiguity.  Employers will now have less of a chance to claim that they did not know that any given information is required.  In some ways, the new form may reduce the number of “technical violations”, which are mainly violations concerning the proper completion of the form as opposed to the employment authorization of the employee.  Conversely USCIS may be less forgiving when employers do not properly complete what appears to be a “clearer” or ‘better” form.  Employers should note that the process to verify employment authorization has not changed.  Employers must still provide the list of acceptable documents to the employee and allow the employee to provide either a List A document or a List B and List C document to demonstrate work authorization.  The new form does not modify that process.

To-Do List for Employers

We suggest the following “To-Do” list for the employer in response to the new I-9 form.

  • Download the new I-9 form and instructions.  Review them carefully.  Note any questions that you may have.
  • Contact your legal counsel to clarify questions that you have.
  • Educate all employees who have responsibilities of completing the I-9 form or involved in the I-9 process.
  • Decide when to start using the new form. Clearly mark May 7, 2013on your calendar as the “Last Day to Use the Old I-9 Form”. Set additional reminders prior to that date as desired.
  • Evaluate your company’s I-9 practice and policy. Consider engaging legal counsel to conduct internal I-9 audits.

The new I-9 form contains some nice features and should make it more “user-friendly”.  Employers need not to be afraid of using the new form, because it seems to be an improvement over the old version.  However, employers must take smart steps to implement its use prior to May 7, 2013.  The one-page I-9 form was a confusing form.  Let’s hope that this new two-page version of Form I-9 will help employers nationwide comply with the I-9 process with added confidence and ease.