The most important new hire onboarding form is getting a makeover.
Last month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would be publishing a revised version of its Form I-9 by November 22. The form, which has been a mandatory part of new hire onboarding since 1986, is used to confirm an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. The form was last updated by the agency in 2013.
USCIS will give employers until January 21, 2017 to switch over to the new form, at which point the current form (which reads “OMB No. 1615-0047” in the top right corner) will become invalid. The new form will be in effect until at least August 31, 2019, after which USCIS may consider additional updates.
A “Smart” Form I-9
The updated I-9 has been called a “smart” form because it features built-in error checks for a number of fields. If a new hire’s social security number or driver's license expiration date is invalid, for example, an error will display on the screen to alert the employee or preparer. Additionally, some fields will now feature drop-down menus, calendars, and even pop-up instructions when an employee’s cursor hovers over a field.
The updates are intended to standardize field entries and make it easier for employers to catch errors before signing-off on the form. These are valuable objectives, given that a recent fine increase doubled the maximum penalty for I-9 violations to $2,156—per form.
Employers should note that while the updated I-9 will feature a number of technological enhancements, USCIS will not allow employees to sign it electronically—once the form is filled out, it will still need to be printed and signed by hand. The copies of the forms can then be filed away or saved electronically—the agency’s storage requirements remain unchanged with the new form.
This article will be updated once USCIS publishes the new form.