United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) recently issued a new version of its Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, which is used to verify the employment authorization and identity for all employees in the United States.

Although employers may now begin to use the new version, which has a 10/21/2019 version date on the bottom, they will be required to use it beginning on May 1, 2020. Failure to use the proper Form I-9 version can result in significant penalties.

Changes in this new version are minor and not visible in the printed version, with most changes appearing in the drop-down menus when the form is completed electronically and in the form’s instructions. For example:

  • The online fillable “smart” version now has an additional country available in a drop down menu in Section 1.
  • The instructions now include:
    • a new process for requesting paper forms,
    • an updated USCIS website address,
    • more detail on who can complete a Form I-9 the employer’s authorized representative, and
    • clarifications for acceptable documents (although the actual list of acceptable documents remains unchanged).

Although these changes appear minor, they present a good opportunity to review your hiring policies to ensure you are properly completing and retaining Forms I-9. Given the increase in government I-9 audits over recent years, we recommend that you regularly conduct internal audits of your I-9s; properly correcting errors, when possible, and purging I-9s for ex-employees that are no longer required to be retained.

When faced with challenging or unfamiliar fact patterns during a hire, first try searching USCIS’s online Handbook for Employers M-274, which has answers to most questions. If doubts remain, we suggest reaching out to the author or another immigration attorney in order to avoid potential penalties.