New Year, New I-9: Are You Prepared to Comply?

workforce questionAs employers look to 2017, preparing to comply with the newest I-9 employment eligibility verification form is likely top-of-mind. Given that this is the first major change to Form I-9 since 2013, it is important that employers are attuned to all revisions and assemble an effective and consistent I-9 compliance program.

Since Nov. 6, 1986, employers have been using the, a form in which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues and uses to verify the identity and eligibility of the vast majority of individuals employed in the United States. New versions of the form are released periodically, each time requiring meticulous attention to is details and policies on the part of employers. Most recently, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved a revised Form I-9 on Nov. 14, 2016, once again prompting the compliance preparation process. The newest version of Form I-9 is now available and according to the OMB, must be used beginning Jan. 21, 2017,  after which all previous versions of Form I-9 will be invalid.

Attention should be given to precise entry on the I-9 form is required without much leeway, leaving employers at risk of potential fines which in the past could be as much as $2,156 per non-compliant form.  These forms will be used as the basis for audits from government organizations such as the Departments of Labor, Justice and Homeland Security.

In recognition of the frequent points of confusion with current Form I-9, USCIS responded by designing a modernized and improved form that aims to reduce the number of technical errors and to enhance the ease of completion via computer. A few of the revisions include:

  • Confirmation through prompts on certain fields to validate correctly entered information.
  • The addition of easy access to the full instructions and on-screen instructions for each field, and new conveniences such as drop-down lists and ready-use calendars for filling in dates.
  • A new free-form field for additional information to be entered about an employee’s situation, such as termination dates and re-verification notes.

To ease the transition to the new forms, First Advantage partnered with David Basham, outreach analyst at USCIS, and offer a complementary training on the new I-9 form to better prepare employers for compliance. The Dec. 15 webinar, now available for replay on demand, addressed everything from the common mistakes made while completing the new I-9, including how to complete an I-9 on a new hire, before they start working for pay and what to do if an I-9 is missing or damaged.

According to Basham, the key when handling the new I-9 form is uniformity. What is done for one is done for all. This includes making a copy of I-9 documents, storing records in a traditional storage facility or digitally, or maintaining files on-site or off-site. As long as there is uniformity and consistency, any configuration of the above approaches is acceptable.

It is also important to note that an employer must hold all current and former employee I-9 forms for a period of at least one calendar year. If a worker was employed for a period of more than two years, the form must be held for a period of three years from the date first hired.

Given the importance of compliance and the history of confusion, now would be a wise time for employers to consider conducting an internal audit of their I-9 compliance program to determine which, if any mistakes may exist and where training and clarification may be needed.

Ranjeev Teelock

Ranjeev Teelock
Ranjeev Teelock is senior vice president for global product management with First Advantage, a background screening business. He can be reached at ranjeev.teelock (at) fadv (dot) com. To replay the I-9 training video, click here.

Ranjeev Teelock

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