• simplyHR

What you need to know about the new I-9 form

Effective January 22, 2017, there is a new I-9 form that all employers must start using. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made a few adjustments in hopes to make the form a little more user friendly. This is great news, as the penalties associated with the proper completion of the I-9 form can range from $178 - $4,313 per form or incident. Employers will need to start using the new I-9 form going forward, and are not required to re-validate or fill out a new form for employees that already have an I-9 on file.

The new I-9 form is being called a "smart" form, and the form can be filled out electronically. Many of the fields on the form include drop down options that make it easier for employers to complete. While this can make it a little easier to navigate, employers should be cautious as they utilize the smart form. There may be times when additional information, which is not included in a drop down option, may need to be recorded.

Another fun (yes, we said fun, because we are HR nerds and love this stuff) feature is that the smart form has helpful comments throughout the form. Question mark icons throughout the form provide additional information and support on how to fill out the form. This is great news for all professionals involved with filling out the I-9.

With the new I-9 form comes new instructions. For the 2 page document, there are now 15 pages of instructions. Make sure that when employees are filling out their portion (section 1) of the document that they have access to the instructions. Employers can provide instructions in either a physical or electronic format. The USCIS also has a 70-page employer manual on how to properly fill out the I-9 form. That is a pretty big manual for a 2-page document!

Now on to the fun part, the changes to the form.

All fields that are left blank must contain N/A. The smart form will do this for you, but if you decide to print and hand write on the form, make sure that all fields without information have N/A in the field. For example, if an employee does not have a middle name, they will need to write N/A in that particular field.

You must print the form. Printing the form is critical. The new I-9 provides the capability to fill out everything electronically, but employee and employer are required to sign and date the form physically. The USCIS has stated that they will not accept electronic signatures as valid.

Spanish version of I-9 should only be used as a translation tool. While the USCIS has provided a Spanish version of the I-9, employers can only use the form as a translation tool and cannot retain only the Spanish version.

If no preparer/translator was used the employee MUST check "I did not use a preparer or translator." Ensure that if there were no preparers or translators used while filling out the I-9 that the employee checks the appropriate box.

As a reminder, make sure that the employee fills out Section 1 Employee Information and Attestation, of the I-9 on their first day of work. The employee should not fill out the form I-9 before they have accepted a job offer. The employee has three business days to bring in their documents that provide evidence of their eligibility to work in the United States. As a reminder, employers cannot require specific forms from the employee. A best practice is to provide the list of acceptable documents; this can be found on the last page of the I-9 instructions, to the applicant with their offer letter of employment. Employers must physically inspect the employee's document(s). You cannot accept a copy of their document(s) as valid. The employer must fill out Section 2 Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification of the I-9 within three business days of the employees first day of work. Some employers choose to retain copies of the document(s) the employees provide. If you decide to retain copies of employee's documents, make sure that you are consistent in your practice and make copies for all of your employees. We are oftentimes asked if I-9s can be stored electronically, which they may. However, there is a long list of requirements for electronic storage, which can be found here.

simplyHR is an HR consulting firm located in Fort Collins, CO providing partnerships to companies in all 50 states. Our goal at simplyHR is to provide training, education, partnership, and resources to make Human Resources simple for small businesses. We love HR so you can love what you do.


The content of this website provides practical and HR best practice information and is not legal advice. simplyHR LLC does not provide legal advice or other professional services. While every effort is made to provide accurate and current information, laws change regularly and may vary depending on the state and/or the municipality your business operates in. The information provided from simplyHR is provided for informational purposes and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgement. You should review applicable federal, state and municipality laws in your jurisdiction and consult with legal counsel as you deem necessary.