USCIS Proposes New ‘Smart’ I-9 Form

By Roy Maurer Dec 4, 2015
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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) wants to create a new “smart” version of the Form I-9 to reduce user error and make the form easier to complete.

“The proposed changes will have far-reaching impact because all employers are required to complete and maintain the Form I-9 for each employee hired to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States,” said Susan Rodriguez, an attorney based in the Charlotte, N.C., office of McGuireWoods.

The revised form is designed to address “frequent points of confusion that arise for both employees and employers,” said John Fay, vice president and general counsel at LawLogix, a software company specializing in cloud-based immigration and compliance services.

New drop-down menus, field checks and error messages will be added to ensure accurate data entry during the employment verification process.

The form will be available for download at www.uscis.gov upon being approved. Employers may not be required to use it, however. In the past, USCIS has allowed employers to use one or more previous editions of the I-9 in situations in which the most recent version had only minor modifications, Fay explained. For example, employers were permitted to use both the 2/2/09 and 8/7/09 versions for some time.

“In this case, however, I have a sneaking suspicion that USCIS will want employers to use this updated version—either by filling it out on the computer or on paper—since it contains some notable changes which may impact how companies complete the form,” Fay said. “They’ve also greatly expanded the instructions, so I’m sure they will want employers to benefit from the additional guidance and examples that they have provided.”

With the proposed form, employers will be able to:

  • Check certain fields to ensure information is entered correctly. The form will validate the correct number of digits for a Social Security number or an expiration date on an identity document, for example, Fay said.
  • View instructions on the screen to complete each field. Help buttons will be integrated throughout the form.
  • Clear the form to start over.
  • Enter required additional information in dedicated fields instead of making notes in the margins as is currently done.
  • Choose options from drop-down lists of acceptable identification documents in section 2.
  • Add information about multiple preparers and translators, each of whom must complete a separate preparer and/or translator section. The proposed instructions include a widely expanded section on preparers and translators, including a new warning that “If you serve as a preparer or translator and fail to sign your name in this field, you may be subject to criminal prosecution.”

Other proposed changes to the form include:

  • Requiring new hires to provide only “other last names used” in section 1, rather than “other names used.”
  • Streamlining the certification in section 1 for certain foreign nationals by asking for either a Form I-94 number or foreign passport information rather than both.
  • Separating the instructions from the form. “Employers are still required to present the instructions to the employee completing the form,” Rodriguez said.

The form will also generate a quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, once the form is printed. The most recent version of the form (03/08/13) raised many eyebrows with the introduction of a conspicuous spot for a future barcode. “At long last, the mysterious barcode has appeared and will be used to facilitate review by government auditors,” Fay said.

Proposed Form Is Not an Electronic I-9

Even though the proposed smart I-9 is completed electronically, it is not an electronic I-9 as defined in USCIS regulations. “Employers using this form will ultimately still need to print the form, obtain handwritten signatures, store in a safe place, monitor reverifications and updates with a calendaring system, and retype information into E-Verify, if required,” Fay said.

Fay expects that USCIS will eventually require all employers to use this version of the Form I-9 or something similar.

Public comments will be accepted on the proposed changes through Jan. 25, 2016. At that time, USCIS may make changes to the form based on comments received and will publish a second notice in the Federal Register. The public will have an additional 30 days to provide comments on proposed changes.

It’s also important to note that the current version of the Form I-9 expires on March 31, 2016. “USCIS will need to either extend or revise the I-9 form so that HR and hiring managers can continue completing new forms for all those newly hired employees,” Fay said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy​​

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