USCIS Revises the M-274 Handbook for Employers on Completing the Form I-9

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted a newly revised version of the M-274 Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing Form I-9, on their public web site. The I-9 handbook (often referred to as simply the “M-274”) is a frequently consulted (and debated) treatise on how to properly verify employment authorization of new employees and complete the I-9 form.

Originally drafted back in 1987, the M-274 has grown in length and complexity (currently 69 pages, including blank pages) in an effort to address the myriad of issues which can arise during the I-9 process. As described in some of our prior articles on I-9 compliance challenges, employers often struggle to complete the I-9 in a consistent and correct manner, due in large part to the complexities of the law and lack of specific guidance on common issues.

Many stakeholders have suggested that USCIS should develop a more interactive and complete “I-9 toolbox” which could contain current (and archived) versions of various guidance materials, including the M-274, the I-9 form and instructions, FAQs, and government links. While USCIS has been receptive to these ideas, for now we’ll just have to make do with the M-274.

Sneak Peak

While this latest revision of the M-274 (Rev. 01/05/2011) is not as substantial as some prior updates, there are still quite a few changes to note, especially in regards to documenting employment authorization of foreign national employees (J-1, F-1, H-1B, etc). The USCIS has also rearranged several portions of the manual (many new sections include instructions that previously were located in FAQs), updated references to the final electronic I-9 rule and recent E-Verify changes, and has included some new sample document images at the end of the book.

In the coming days, we’ll present a more detailed analysis of the changes to the M-274, including a few areas of contention which are still unresolved. In the meantime, please feel free to check out the entire M-274 handbook here.