On January 31, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a notice in the Federal Register to announce that an updated version of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (Rev. 10/21/19) is available that all employers must begin using it by May 1, 2020.
While employers were allowed to begin using this updated form immediately for new employees, the USCIS provided additional time to allow employers to incorporate the new version of the form and make the necessary updates to their hiring processes. The prior version of Form I-9 (Rev. 7/17/2017) will be obsolete effective April 30, 2020.
So what has changed in this new version of the form itself? The answer is not much. On the paper version of the form (as opposed to the fillable version), only the revision/version date, expiry date, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) date on the top right hand corner of the form have changed. On the fillable version of the form available on the USCIS website, the Country of Issuance field (Section 1) and the Issuing Authority field (Section 2) dropdown response options were updated to add “Eswatini” (replacing “Swaziland”) and “Macedonia, North” (replacing “The Republic of Macedonia”) to reflect recent name changes for those countries.
There have been changes made to the Form I-9 instructions with respect to several items.
The USCIS also published a revised Spanish version of Form I-9 with a revision date of 10/21/2019. The Spanish version of the Form I-9 may only be completed in Puerto Rico. For all other U.S. states and territories, the Spanish version is made available only as a reference for comparison while completing the English version of the form.
The official guidance for completing the Form I-9, called the Handbook for Employers M-274, has been updated to correspond to the new form. In the future, employers can check the I-9 Central page of the USCIS government website to find this useful guide and more information.
While changes to the new Form I-9 are not substantial, the penalties for not conforming to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which is enforced by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) certainly are consequential. Failure to use the updated version of the Form I-9 (Rev. 10/21/2019 with an expiry of 10/31/2022) as of May 1, 2020, will be considered a substantive error, and penalties range from $230 to $2,292 per violation.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are allowed to temporarily inspect Form I-9 Section 2 documents remotely (e.g. via video link, email, fax, etc.), as well as obtain, inspect, and retain copies (instead of originals) of those documents until normal business operations resume. The physical inspection requirements are deferred until May 18, 2020, OR within three business days after the termination of this National Emergency. Employers should also enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field. Note that the three-day rule still applies: Employers must conduct remote inspections within three business days of the employee’s start date and retain the documentation provided. Please refer to the DHS website for more details on the required process once normal operations resume for physical inspection of these documents for all employees previously onboarded using remote verification.
The USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has published an updated version of the M-274 Handbook for Employers with revisions and updates regarding the new Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.
You can find this updated Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 on the government’s I-9 Central webpage, as well as a summary of changes. The USCIS is also offering a free webinar on the Form I-9 with more information.
(Read Dana’s last article on The New W4 Form)