USCIS to Release New “Smart I-9”02 Nov 2016
Publication of a new employment eligibility verification form (form I-9) is expected on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website by November 22, 2016. Employers are allowed to continue using the existing I-9 form, which has an expiration date of March 31, 2016, until January 21, 2017. After January 21st, the new form will be required.
Form I-9 Requirements
Generally speaking, U.S. employers are required to complete an I-9 for all new employees to verify the employment authorization of each worker. If an employer fails to properly and timely complete an I-9 for each new employee, the company may be subject to costly fines and, in extreme cases, even criminal charges. In recent years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has increased the number of investigations and audits related to I-9 compliance. Accordingly, it is important for employers to have procedures in place to ensure that all the related requirements are met.
New “Smart I-9”
The new I-9 form is being touted by USCIS as a “Smart I-9” that incorporates innovative features to benefit employers. Employers will be able to complete the new I-9 electronically via the USCIS website, using any computer with a PDF reader. Those using the online version of the form will have access to new error-checking features and dropdown menus designed to assist employers in completing the I-9, minimizing the potential for errors. If required fields are left blank, or completed with inconsistent information, the user will receive a real-time error message signaling a potential mistake on the form. In addition, the new form will provide instructional text for the various fields to help clarify the information that is required.
Hard Copy of the Form Still Required
Although it will be possible to complete the form electronically, a hard copy of the form will still be required. Once completed, the new I-9 form will need to be printed and signed by the employee and the employer, and then kept on file with the employer for the required period (which is typically three years).
All too often, employers fail to pay attention to the rules regarding I-9 requirements until they face a surprise audit or investigation. It is helpful to set up a system in order to ensure that all I-9 forms are properly completed. In addition, employers can take other proactive steps, such as auditing existing records, in order to help avoid later complications.
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