Human Resources

One Form, Two Form, Here’s A New Form! The New I-9

By Holly K. Jones, JD

There’s going to be a new I-9 form for human resources professionals to start using by late January—if you haven’t trained them on it already, do so right away! Here to help with some entertaining (and informative) Seussian poetry is BLR Senior Legal Editor Holly K. Jones, JD.

Form I-9; here’s what’s new.

Use by January 22.

An extra page, a blank or two.

And by the way, the instructions grew.

At long last, the new revision of Form I-9 is here. Though the previous revision of the form can still be used for employment verification through January 21, 2017, there’s no time like the present to familiarize yourself with the new version.

The most prominent changes to the new form are its “smart” features, which we’ll discuss further below. Yet there are a few other subtle but important details of note:

  • The form itself has expanded to 3 pages, with the section for reverification now appearing on its own page.
  • Just as the form has expanded, so have the instructions (from 9 to 15 pages). Of additional significance is the fact that the instructions are now in a separate document from the form itself. This is important because employers are required to make a copy of the instructions available to employees during completion of Section 1 of the I-9. Fortunately, the instructions can simply be made available electronically, but if you provide I-9s solely in paper format, you’ll need to be sure to include the instructions, too.
  • A few of the individual fields on the form have changed to help eliminate confusion. For example, date fields have been changed to read “Today’s Date.” This change helps highlight the fact that I-9s should never be backdated.
  • Section 2 of the form now includes a block for “Additional Information,” which employers may use to record termination and document retention dates, E-Verify notes, postaudit comments and corrections, and any of those other details that were previously crammed in the margins or on separate pages.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

We hope you won’t be seeing ICE

But just in case, check your forms twice.

If your form’s wrong, you know the game.

The employer shoulders all the blame.

Despite its apparent simplicity, the I-9 has long been a compliance nightmare for employers. Let’s consider the facts:

  • The I-9 requires input from both employees and employers, which introduces twice the opportunity for error.
  • The window for compliant completion—all during that hectic first week of work—is very narrow.
  • The completed form isn’t submitted to the government for review and feedback, which means errors and mistakes can not only go unnoticed but also can continue happening on new forms for years to come.
  • The reference material is lengthy.
  • It can be easy to overlook some of the requirements—including the signature and date—on the form.
  • If audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), even minor mistakes can add up quickly. After recent increases in August, fines can range from $216 to $2156—per I-9.

The new I-9 addresses a few of these issues via its “smart” form format.

For example, if a required field is left blank, the new I-9 will alert the employer of the missing data and will prevent the form from being saved. The form also includes drop-down menus, tooltips providing help and guidance on individual fields, and smart filters that will autofill or remove options that don’t correspond with the details provided by the employee in Section 1.

However, this does not mean employers can rely on the form to do all the work for them. The duty of proper I-9 completion still rests entirely with the employer. This means that if the wrong verification document is accidentally selected from one of the drop-down menus, the employer cannot blame the error on the form. So it is still essential to double-check all data entered for accuracy and completeness.

Jones has some more informative I-9 rhymes for our readers in tomorrow’s Advisor.

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