USCIS confirms that current Form I-9 will be valid until January 21, 2017

Yesterday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a notice on their “What’s New” page, confirming the timing of the newly redesigned Form I-9 while also explicitly noting the ultimate deadline that employers will face early next year. As previously reported, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) cleared the way for the new form to be released in late August while also instructing the USCIS on when the form must be published and how much time employers should be provided before they can no longer use the current (and soon to be “old”) form.

As the following snapshot illustrates, the USCIS appears to be following the OMB instruction to the letter:

What's New I-9

Source: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/whats-new (last visited September 12, 2016)

As previously discussed, this timing is excellent news for employers, many of whom often struggle to implement new I-9 and E-Verify requirements before government mandated deadlines go into effect. Even the smallest of changes on the Form I-9 can have a great impact, particularly when you consider all of the various training materials, policy documents, and long-standing I-9 beliefs which may exist within an organization.

Getting the word out is paramount, and employers should take advantage of the USCIS “grace period” to prepare themselves for the new form. To get you started, here are five recommended practices:

(1) Decide how you will access and complete the new Form I-9 – at the onset, you’ll need to decide whether you will be completing the new form via a computer in order to take advantage of some of the error-checking features previously discussed. If you decide to complete the form in this manner, you’ll also want to make it clear that the form must be still be printed and hand-signed (since it’s not a true electronic I-9).

(2) Review the new Form I-9 and instructions carefully to fully comprehend the proposed “policy” changes which may impact your current processes and procedures. For example, you may wish to update your I-9 handbook and tutorials to reflect the new requirements concerning preparers and translators, the citizenship/immigration status field at the top of page 2, and the protocol for entering additional information for certain foreign national employees.

(3) Confer with immigration counsel before making any broad scale policy changes. As we’ve illustrated many times on this blog, achieving I-9 and E-Verify compliance requires a very delicate balance between following DHS rules while also avoiding the slippery slope of employee discrimination. Specialized immigration counsel can advise you on these matters and provide assistance in creating a new policy document and related training materials.

(4) Don’t ignore your old I-9s – when a new form version surfaces, there’s often a tendency to forget about all of your current I-9s and the problems which may be lurking therein. It’s important to remember that employers are ultimately responsible for maintaining I-9s of all current employees as well as those of terminated employees (but with terminated employees, it’s only for a period of 3 years after hire or 1 year after term, whichever is later). If you have errors or omissions on I-9s which must be retained, you may face significant fines and penalties in the event of an audit.

(5) Consider going fully electronic with your I-9s. If you are currently completing your I-9s on paper, now might be the perfect time to consider a fully automated electronic I-9 system which not only includes error checking, but also features electronic signature capability, paperless storage, automatic reminders and reports, seamless E-Verify completion, and integration with other HR systems. A well-designed system will adapt to your own unique hiring needs and also enable you to stay on top of new developments and requirements – such as the new Form I-9!

Want to stay up-to-date regarding the pending release of the new Form I-9? Please visit this blog regularly and subscribe to our I-9 and E-Verify newsletter here.

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John Fay is an immigration attorney and technologist with a deep applied knowledge of I-9 compliance and E-Verify rules and procedures. During his career, John has advised human resource managers and executives on a wide variety of corporate immigration compliance issues, including the implementation of electronic I-9 systems. In his current role, John serves as Vice President and General Counsel at the LawLogix division of Hyland Software, Inc., where he is responsible for overseeing product design and functionality while ensuring compliance with ever-changing government rules.