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Dreaming of a better Form I-9 Process

In the HR world, the release of a new Form I-9 is potentially a big deal. On paper, it may appear to be just a two-page form, but in actuality, the I-9 is a full-blown process with a dizzying number of rules, procedures, and caveats. We sometimes joke that the I-9 law should be called the “Lifetime Employment Act for Lawyers” since there is seemingly no end of gray areas and “gotchas” for employers who are simply trying to onboard a newly hired employee.

And if the I-9 is not fun enough, HR folks also have to consider E-Verify – the somewhat voluntary program for electronically verifying employment eligibility. Designed to complement the Form I-9, E-Verify adds another layer of complexity to the process by changing or modifying longstanding I-9 rules in interesting and sometimes unpredictable ways.

How do employers (largely HR) keep track of all of these rules and nuances? The lucky ones will be using a smart electronic I-9 system which simplifies and harmonizes the verification rules while also making sure to keep the employer in compliance. Others will rely upon the Form I-9 instructions themselves along with the myriad of peripheral documentation such as the M-274 Handbook, I-9 Central, and guides from both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), to name just a few.

But regardless of the system you’re using, employers are bound to the Form I-9 – it dictates what information must be captured, how it must be recorded, and the overall process that employers must follow to stay in compliance. And just like the process it enforces, the Form I-9 has been steadily growing in complexity. Gone are the days when the I-9 could be completed on one page and safely filed away in a few minutes. Nowadays, you’re talking a 2-page minimum, along with 15 pages of instructions.

But employers take note – the USCIS is in the process of extending the Form I-9 collection (as required under the Paperwork Reduction Act) and evaluating the quality, utility, and clarity of the information requested on the I-9. You can access the Form I-9 collection by visiting https://www.regulations.gov/ and typing USCIS–2006–0068 in the search box.

LawLogix Clients Speak Out

In response to the Form I-9 notice (and opportunity for feedback), LawLogix polled our substantial client base to solicit their ideas and suggestions for how to build a better Form I-9 process. Comments ran the gamut of possible input – from very specific form-filling rules to larger process-based issues. What emerged were five broad areas where the USCIS can make a significant improvement to the employment eligibility verification process. These include:

  1. Remote I-9 processing
  2. Section 1 information clarity
  3. Refining the Lists of Acceptable Documents
  4. Harmonizing I-9 and E-Verify rules and
  5. Overall simplification

Armed with these comments, LawLogix submitted a detailed letter to the USCIS with specific suggestions and feedback to modernize the government’s 30-year old verification process. Interested parties can review our public submission here:
LawLogixLetter-Form-I-9_2019

Next Steps

The USCIS will be reviewing and evaluating public comments, with an eye towards releasing a new Form I-9 later this summer (the current Form I-9 edition (07-17-17 N) will expire on 8/31/2019). Based on the nature of the current collection, it’s likely the form will simply be extended (without change), but it’s still important for HR to voice their concerns and ideas. Now more than ever, employers need a modern (and flexible) employment eligibility verification process to survive the new era of immigration compliance and worksite enforcement.

Have a question about I-9 compliance or the ideas contained in our letter? Please contact us here with any and all I-9/E-Verify questions!


About John Fay

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 President at the LawLogix division of Hyland Software, Inc., where he oversees all aspects of the division’s operations and provides strategic leadership and direction in the development and support of Form I-9, E-Verify, and immigration case management software solutions.

Human Resources Today