United States: Understanding The Revised I-9 Form

Last Updated: February 7 2017
Article by Dina Weinstein

For employers of foreign national employees that may be subject to increased worksite inspections and I-9 enforcement during the Trump administration, understanding policy changes and ensuring ongoing compliance is critical.

On Nov. 14, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published a revised Form I-9, the form that all U.S. employers are required to complete to verify the identity and employment authorization of new employees. The revised form must be used for all new hires starting on Jan. 22, 2017. Completing Form I-9 frequently causes confusion, in particular when hiring foreign national employees as they may possess a variety of unfamiliar employment authorization documents. However, as investigation and enforcement of Form I-9 completion and practices is expected to increase as a result of the new administration's focus on immigration, understanding and complying with all I-9 requirements is more important than ever for employers.

'Smart' Features

One of the key changes made by USCIS is the introduction of a "smart" form, which is a form that can be downloaded and completed on a computer and includes a variety of electronic enhancements aimed at reducing errors and facilitating form completion.

Specifically, the "smart" I-9 form includes such electronic features as embedded drop-down lists, calendars to fill in dates, and hover-over instructions to assist employers and employees in completing the form. In addition, after the employer and employee have filled out the form, the computer version of the form will point out technical errors and will indicate if a field was left blank. Other such enhancements include auto-populating of certain fields based on information entered in other fields and prompts in certain fields to ensure that information is entered correctly.

Employers will likely find these changes helpful as the electronic enhancements provide helpful tips and error-corrections while completing the form. These electronic changes are also similar to the way many documents and forms are completed online -- with such features as hover-over instructions and automatic error-checking being common features of many web-based forms.

It is important to note that the "smart" form is not an electronic I-9 form. This means that even the "smart" form must be printed in hard copy, signed in the original, and stored in compliance with all I-9 regulations.

USCIS also continues to provide a "flat" PDF version of the I-9 form that can be printed and filled out by hand.

Changes to the Language and Fields of the Form

Further, the revised Form I-9 now provides a separate area for writing in additional information, rather than adding it to the margins. In particular, this is a helpful feature for employers of foreign workers who are eligible for employment based on documents and situations not listed in Lists A, B or C (for example, a foreign national with an H-1B who is eligible to work pursuant to a pending H-1B extension). Such a seemingly basic change to the form demonstrates an acknowledgement on the part of USCIS of the various complex employment authorization situations that come up when hiring foreign national employees.

A few other changes to the completion of the Form I-9 are intended to make the process of completing the form easier and more in sync with how employers actually prepare the form. For example, Section 1 of the form now asks for "Other Last Names Used," rather than "Other Names Used." Additionally, foreign nationals authorized to work in the U.S. now need to enter either their Form I-94 Admission Number or their foreign passport number in Section 1, rather than both as previously required.  For situations in which multiple translators or preparers are required, the Form now has the ability to enter multiple preparers and translators, with a separate field for each preparer and translator.

Employers will also notice that as part of the changes to the form, the I-9 instructions have grown to 15 pages, and are now separate from the form itself.

For employers of foreign national employees, compliance with I-9 employment verification requirements is likely to become more scrutinized under the new administration. Indeed, one feature of the "smart" form points to the likelihood of increased I-9 investigations. When the employer prints the completed form, a quick response (QR) code will be automatically generated, which can be read by most QR readers. Although USCIS has not specifically explained the purpose of this feature, the codes may be used in the future by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to more efficiently review and audit employers' I-9 files.

HR personnel should therefore take the I-9 revisions as an opportunity to review their I-9 completion practices and make sure they are in line with all regulatory requirements, in particular when completing the form for foreign workers.

The changes to the I-9 form and instructions are primarily in formatting, intended to make the completion process easier and clearer for employers. The substantive I-9 requirements remain the same.

In particular, as mentioned above, even though one version of the new I-9 form can be downloaded and completed on a computer, employers must still retain a hard copy print-out of either the "smart" or "flat" form with their original signatures. Employers may also continue to store electronic copies using their electronic storage systems that have already been found to comply with USCIS electronic retention and signature requirements (the computer version of the new I-9 form does not, by itself, meet these requirements).

Further, these changes do not make any alterations to the lists of acceptable documents for either identity or employment eligibility verification. The rules for when the form must be completed by employees and employers, and how long it must be retained, also have not changed.

Moreover, what has not changed -- yet -- is the M-274 Handbook for Employers, provided by USCIS to assist employers in completing Form I-9. USCIS has indicated that a new handbook that takes into account the revisions to the I-9 form will be released by Jan. 22. Before then, employers should use the form instructions for help in completing the new form.

While the new "smart" form has features that may make I-9 completion easier and more efficient, employers are still responsible for the accurate completion and retention of the forms. The "smart" form does not cross-check information between sections, and does not have the capability to verify that information is accurate. Continued care with completing and reviewing I-9 forms is vital and is just one of the ways that employers can prepare for potential increased government oversight.

How Employers Can Prepare

Trump's victory raises numerous concerns for employers of foreign national employees, as immigration reform and compliance is expected to be a major focus. This could certainly result in increased enforcement and investigations of Form I-9 employment eligibility verification compliance to ensure that all foreign workers are eligible for employment in the U.S.

For employers and human resources personnel, I-9 completion for foreign national employees already comes with challenges. Questions often present themselves in the form of unfamiliar employment authorization documents and a variety of employment authorization situations that are not all clearly laid out in the lists of acceptable documents.

On top of that, the penalties for I-9 violations became more severe even before the election. Monetary penalties for I-9 violations nearly doubled in a penalty increase that went into effect on August 1, 2016. The minimum penalty for an I-9 violation increased from $110 to $216 and the maximum increased from $1,100 to $2,156, per individual. Under the new administration, with increased audits and oversight likely, the risk of larger civil monetary penalties is greater as well.

To prepare, employers should first understand the changes to the I-9 form and determine whether they will benefit from using the new "smart" form. Employers can also take these changes as an opportunity to refresh their knowledge of the substantive I-9 requirements that have not been affected.

Moreover, particularly for employers who hire foreign workers, I-9 trainings should include an overview of typical employment authorization documents as well as some less familiar employment authorization situations, such as rules allowing H-1B workers to change employers or continue working while an H-1B extension is pending. Such an overview will better equip employers to properly complete the I-9 form and also to identify instances where further scrutiny of employment authorization documents is required.

Lastly, employers can conduct audits of their current I-9 files. It is never too late to review I-9 forms that were previously completed and determine how to correct errors, if any. Such audits can also help to identify common errors that can be addressed moving forward.

Implementing procedures and policies for continually reviewing I-9 files and establishing a practice of I-9 training will aid employers in setting up a long-term, forward-looking practice of I-9 compliance.

Originally published by Human Resource Executive Online.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
18 Oct 2017, Conference, New York, United States

Interlaw’s 2017 Annual Global Meeting will focus on the future of law, and features speakers who will facilitate discussions around the “new normal” in our workplace where change is happening at an unprecedented pace.

24 Oct 2017, Seminar, New York, United States

On October 24, 2017, Partner Dyan Finguerra-DuCharme will be a featured speaker at a special "Lunch and Learn" session hosted by CompuMark, where she will discuss the challenges of protecting product packaging and design.

26 Oct 2017, Workshop, San Antonio, United States

On October 26, 2017, Bradley Kaufman, head of Pryor Cashman's Commercial + Retail Leasing practice, will be a featured speaker at The International Council of ShoppingCenters's (ICSC) Workshop 22 event.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.