USCIS Unveils the "Smart" I-9

Miller & Martin PLLC Alerts | December 15, 2016

by Megan Welton

On November 14, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revealed a revised version of the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. The revamped Form I-9 is a product of the USCIS's effort to combat the high error rate that accompanies the use of paper forms. The new form has been in the works for nearly a year and has been labeled as a "smart" I-9 because it supports some data validation and includes pop-up "Help" icons.

New capabilities of the "smart" I-9 include the following:

  • Validates certain fields (e.g., the correct number of digits for a Social Security number or an expiration date on an identity document);
  • Provides space to enter more than one preparer or translator;
  • Precludes the completion of the form if a mandatory field is left blank;
  • Includes drop down menus for the list of acceptable identification documents;
  • Provides a dedicated "Notes" area for required additional information, so employers no longer have to enter notes manually in the margins;
  • Allows users to view instructions on the screen through the use of "Help" button icons;
  • Removes the requirement that aliens authorized to work provide both their Form I-94 number and foreign passport information. Now the form will require only one of these numbers; and
  • Generates a quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, that will be used to streamline government audits.

Although the smart I-9 likely will reduce fines resulting from human error, it is not without imperfections, and employers ultimately still are responsible for ensuring compliance. Notably, on August 1, 2016, the Department of Justice announced a significant increase to fines for I-9 violations. Fines now range from $216 to $2,156 per violation.

Also, employers should note that the smart I-9 is not an "electronic I-9" as defined by USCIS regulations. Even though employers will be able to access and fill out the form on the USCIS.gov website, it still must be printed out and signed by the employee and employer representative.

Employers' use of the revised Form I-9 becomes mandatory on January 22, 2017. Until then, employers can continue to use the version of the I-9 dated March 8, 2013.

Should you need assistance completing the new Form I-9 or have questions regarding any other immigration-related matters, please contact Megan Welton, or any other member of our Labor & Employment Law Practice Group.

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