The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new version of Form I-9, the Employment Eligibility Verification Form. The revised Form I-9 was issued on January 31, 2020, but employers are allowed to use the prior version until April 30, 2020.
Although the Form I-9 appears to be simple to use, many employers have been subject to significant fines for failure to achieve I-9 compliance. In order to make the necessary updates and adjust their business processes accordingly, the USCIS has given the employers additional time. Therefore, they should take into account changes to the Form I-9, follow the instructions carefully, and establish a consistent policy in the process of verifying employment eligibility.
Background of the Form I-9
Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of employees. All employers are required to implement procedures in order to ensure proper completion of the Form I-9 for each individual that is hired for employment in the United States, including citizens and noncitizens. The form has to be stored for as long as the employee works for the employer as well as after the termination of employment for either one year after termination or three years after the date of hire, whichever is later.
Enforcement efforts have increased in recent years, making it more important now than ever for employers to keep I-9 forms up-to-date and avoid civil fines and criminal penalties. Failure to properly complete the form, retain, and store it may have significant implications on employers, depending on the severity of the I-9 issues. The Department of Homeland Security continues with employer immigration enforcement actions and immigration policies and regulations are constantly changing. As a result, it is increasingly important that employers stay current on the latest I-9 developments, review instructions for the revised Form I-9, and update compliance procedures accordingly.Use this detailed guide to ensure following strict guidelines for proper I-9 verification, remain compliant with the rules, and avoid any potential violations or penalties.
Highlights of the Revised Form I-9
The new version of the I-9 is very similar to the current version of the form with some minor changes visible when completing the electronic version of the form.
Changes to the Form I-9 fillable on electronic devices only:
- A revised “Country of Issuance” field in Section 1,
- A revised “Issuing Authority” field in Section 2 to include Eswatini and North Macedonia,
Changes to the Form I-9 instructions:
- Clarification of who can act as an employer’s authorized representative,
- Updated USCIS web addresses,
- Clarification on acceptable documents,
- Updated process for requesting paper Forms I-9,
- Updated DHS Privacy Notice.
As part of the revised Form I-9, the USCIS clarifies who can act as an authorized representative of an employer. Employers may designate anyone to be an authorized representative to complete Section 2, but the employer is still liable for any violations committed by the designated person. This is one of the useful updates since employers face difficulties in completing I-9s for remotely hired workers, and need more specific instructions that clarify who may serve as an authorized representative when completing the form.
Additional changes to the Form I-9 instructions include minor changes to the acceptable documentation section. Writing N/A in the identity document columns is no longer necessary. When entering document information in the List A column, employers will not need to enter N/A in the columns which are not being used.
The revised Form I-9 also clarifies that the form’s List C of documents establishing employment authorization does not include a worker’s Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that contains a photograph. The List C documents include items like a Social Security card and birth certificate, while the EAD or Form I-766 that contains a photograph providing temporary employment authorization to work in the United States is a List A document.Navigating verification of employment eligibility and Form I-9 compliance can be complex and confusing. Find out about common Form I-9 myths and how to avoid hefty fines.
Preparing for the Revised Form I-9
In order to ensure compliance with USCIS regulations, employers should transition to using the new I-9 form on time. The previous Form I-9, Rev. 07/17/2017, will be considered obsolete and no longer valid for use after April 30, 2020. However, employers do not need to complete the new Form I-9 for current employees who already have a completed one on file, unless reverification applies. Such action may unnecessarily violate federal law.
Although changes in the revised Form I-9 appear minor, they present a good opportunity for reviewing hiring policies and ensure employers are properly completing and retaining Form I-9. Given the increase in government I-9 audits over recent years, businesses should regularly conduct internal audits of forms, properly and timely correct errors, and purge I-9s for ex-employees that are no longer required to be retained.
Verifying employment eligibility can be a complex process affected by ever-changing regulations and the government’s increased actions in this area. Even though the revised Form I-9 is not that different from its previous versions, employers need to update hiring processes and thus avoid potential violations and fines. Adopting and implementing an effective I-9 compliance policy can be significantly simplified by adopting electronic I-9 software as an optimum solution for ensuring adherence to regulations related to I-9 completion, retention, and storage. This allows employers to prevent common mistakes, reduce hiring costs, and stay up-to-date with any changes to the Form I-9 and verification of employment eligibility requirements.Outsource I-9 verification and take the burden of monitoring and enforcing updates to Form I-9 off your HR teams while ensuring I-9 compliance.