by Laura Pokrzywa
As we reported earlier this fall, the Form I-9 employers have been using for the past few years has been updated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Though the previous form actually expired in March of this year, the USCIS allowed an extension on its use until the new form could be introduced. With an expiration date of 08/31/2019, the new form is now available for use, but is not yet required. Employers have a few more weeks to transition to the new form, which will be required as of January 21, 2017. In the meantime, the USCIS says employers should continue to follow existing storage and retention rules for all of their previously completed Forms I-9. Those rules will not change.
According to the USCIS, the changes to the new form start in Section 1 where it asks for ‘other last names used’ rather than ‘other names used,’ streamlining certification for certain foreign nationals. Other changes include the addition of prompts to ensure information is entered correctly, an opportunity to enter multiple preparers and translators, a dedicated area for including additional information rather than having to add it in the margins, and a supplemental page for the preparer/translator.
The new Form I-9 has been tagged “the smart I-9” because it is now easier to complete the form electronically, though it does not eliminate the need to print out the document for signatures and for storage. The new form includes drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates, on-screen instructions for each field, quick access to the instructions, and an option to clear the form and start over. It even automatically generates a QR (quick response) code when the form is printed.
To access the new form from the USCIS website, click here.
The form isn’t the only thing that has changed. The cost of failing to comply with Form I-9 employment verification requirements has gone up significantly. In August, the government increased the individual “per I-9” fines by 96%. Employers can now pay as much as $2126 per form for substantive and uncorrected technical I-9 mistakes (also known as “paperwork violations”).
Form I-9 requirements were established in November 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). IRCA prohibits employers from hiring people, including U.S. citizens, for employment in the United States without verifying their identity and employment authorization on Form I-9.
The easiest and quickest way to verify the eligibility of new hires is using the internet-based system called E-Verify. It is free and required for federal contractors and all employers in certain states. Some anticipate the requirements for use may expand under the incoming administration. With a completed Form I-9 and the new hire’s social security number, an employer can determine eligibility within seconds. This system does not replace the legal requirement to complete and retain those I-9 forms, but it is one more way to ensure legal compliance and avoid costly mistakes.
For more information about E-Verify, Form I-9, or for directions for renewing green cards or re-verifying an employee’s eligibility to work, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
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