“Smart” Form I-9 to be Released in 2016
All employers are required to complete and maintain a Form I-9 for each employee hired, in order to verify identity and authorization to work in the United States. Form I-9s are regulated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS or Agency), which wants to create a new “smart” version. The changes are intended to reduce user error by simplifying the form in a manner intended to address some common points of confusion caused by the most recent version.
Anticipated changes include new drop-down menus, as well as field checks that include error messages to ensure accurate data entry during the employment verification process.
With the proposed “Smart” Form, employers will be able to:
- Check certain fields to ensure information is entered correctly. For example, the form will validate the correct number of digits for a Social Security number or an expiration date on an identity document.
- View instructions on the screen to complete each field. Help buttons will be integrated.
- Clear the form to start over.
- Enter required additional information in dedicated fields, instead of making notes in the margins, as is currently done.
- Choose options from drop-down lists of acceptable identification documents in Section 2.
- Add information about multiple preparers and translators, each of whom must complete a separate preparer and/or translator section. The proposed instructions include a widely expanded section on preparers and translators, including a new warning that “If you serve as a preparer or translator and fail to sign your name in this field, you may be subject to criminal prosecution.”
Other suggested changes include:
- Requiring new hires to provide only “other last names used” in Section 1, rather than “other names used.”
- Streamlining the certification in Section 1 for certain foreign nationals, by asking for either a Form I-94 number or foreign passport information, rather than both.
- Separating the instructions from the form. However, employers are still required to present the instructions to the employee completing the form.
The “Smart” Form I-9 will also generate a quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, once printed. As many familiar with the most recent version of the Form I-9 know, its introduction in 2013 raised eyebrows when it included a conspicuous and unusable box, intended for a future barcode. With the proposed “Smart” Form I-9, the bar code will be used to facilitate government auditor review.
Not an Electronic I-9
Even though the proposed “Smart” I-9 is to be completed electronically, it is not an “electronic” I-9, as defined by USCIS regulations. This is because employers will still need to print the form, obtain handwritten signatures, store in a safe place, monitor re-verifications and up-dates with a calendaring system, and retype information into E-Verify, if required.
Public comments on the proposed changes will be accepted through January 25, 2016. At that time, USCIS may make changes to the form, based on feedback, and will publish a second notice in the Federal Register. The public will then have an additional 30 days to comment. Notably, the current version of the Form I-9 expires on March 31, 2016. Accord-ingly, USCIS will need to either extend or revise the current I-9 Form so that HR and hiring managers can continue completing new forms for newly hired employees since the new “Smart” Form will not be introduced by that date.
It is not yet known if employers will be required to use the new “Smart” Form I-9. In the past, USCIS has allowed employers to use one or more previous editions of the I-9 in situations where the most recent version had only minor modifications. However, with introduction of this “Smart” Form I-9, many suspect that the Agency will want employers to use the updated version—either by completing it on a computer or on paper.