Making the Most of the New Form I-9 and New M-274, Handbook for Employers

After months of anticipation and waiting, USCIS finally delivered the new Form I-9 last Friday.  Already, the I-9 circuit has been buzzing with comments, questions, and queries.  With the release this morning, March 11, 2013, of the revised M-274, Handbook for Employers, no doubt there will be more questions and comments. What should employers do first? While some employers may already be equipped and ready to incorporate the new Form I-9 and the M-274 into their business protocols, it’s helpful for all employers to consider the following tips gleaned in just the last few days:

1. The Nine-Page Form I-9:

The new Form I-9 is officially nine pages.  There are six pages of instructions and three pages to the “actual form.”  Although only pages 7 and 8 require completion by the employee and the authorized employer representative, employers should NOT forget page 9, which contains the List of Acceptable Documents.  It is a common practice for employers to provide all pages (1-9) to the employee in advance of starting work so that they are aware of how to fill out the form and what types of documents they can provide to verify their identity and their work eligibility.

2. Careful Review:

Employers should be carefully reviewing the new requirements indicated on the I-9 instructions and M-274 and when possible, partner with immigration counsel before altering existing work processes.  In fact, in today’s USCIS I-9 conference, Verification Representatives were quite clear that employers should carefully review the new requirements so they can adjust their business workflows appropriately.

3. Electronic I-9 Systems:

Employers who are currently utilizing an electronic I-9 software to manage their I-9 processes and forms should ensure their vendors (or in-house software developers) are also partnering with legal counsel to ensure the software is compliant with the new requirements.  Remember, ICE has indicated very succinctly that employers, and not the software vendors, are responsible for any deficiencies found in its electronic I-9 software. Despite the release of the new Form I-9 (and accompanying instructions) and the new, revised M-274, there will inevitably be unanswered questions by employers.  USCIS will continue to provide further guidance on this ever-evolving field. Planning carefully before embarking on major business workflow changes will be critical in the next two months.  We’ll be revisiting both the new Form I-9 and the revised M-274 in more detail with our attorney experts in follow up articles.  Stay tuned.

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