By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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On November 14, 2016, the USCIS finally issued the new I-9 form, effective January 22, 2017. The current I-9 form continues to be in effect; however, during the interim period before January 22, 2017, an employer may use either the current 2013 version or the 2017 version. The new I-9 form has an expiration date of August 31, 2019.

The most significant change is to make the downloadable I-9 form into a “smart” form. What does a “smart” form mean? It is not an electronic I-9 form. The downloadable I-9 form, using an Adobe reader, has been enhanced with error checking which is designed to prevent the most common mistakes. An example is if you fail to fully complete section 1 of the I-9 form, you will receive an alert that you did not enter data into all of the required fields.

Employers filling out the smart I-9 version must still print the form, obtain signatures, monitor reverifications and updates. Second, if you use the smart form and make a mistake, your company will be held to the same standard of review when faced with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspection.

With the addition of the “smart” form, there are three types of I-9 forms: paper, “smart”, and electronic.
Some of the other changes are:
(1) Replacing the “Other Names Used” field in Section 1 with “Other Last Names Used.” This will avoid employees writing their nicknames in this field;

(2) Modifying Section 1 to request certain employees to enter either their I-94 number or foreign passport information, rather than both;

(3) Requiring you designate whether the employee’s number is an Alien (A) number or USCIS number, if using the smart form (however the numbers are the same though the more recent green cards refer to the number as USCIS);

(4) Requiring “N/A” be entered instead of blanks in certain fields;

(5) Replacing the word “date” to “today’s date”, next to signature boxes (this may help some people from entering their birthdate or from backdating the signature);

(6) Providing a box for employees to check if they did not use a preparer or translator;

(7) Modifying the I-9 form by adding a supplemental third page if using multiple preparers and/or translators;

(8) Adding an area in Section 2 to enter additional information for TPS extensions, OPT STEM extensions and H-1B portability to avoid having to note this information in the margins of the I-9 form; and

(9) Increasing the pages of instructions from 6 to 15.


Although most of the changes may not appear significant, I would advise employers to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney as to compliance with the new I-9 form.