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On March 8, 2013, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) released a new I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form. (As you are probably aware, employers are required to complete an I-9 Form for each new employee to document the verification of the employee’s identity and authorization to work). Revisions include the addition of new required data fields for the employee’s telephone number, e-mail address and foreign passport number; and an expansion of the instructions for completing the form. In addition, the length of the actual I-9 Form has increased from 1 to 2 pages.

Employers should start using the new I-9 Form (dated 03/08/13) immediately for all new hires. The USCIS is providing a 60-day grace period to all employers in which employers may continue to use previous versions of the form. This grace period was directed to those employers that use an electronic employee verification system to allow additional time to update the systems. However, in no case can the previous editions of the I-9 Form be used after May 7, 2013.

The employers’ failure to use the new form will result in a “paperwork violation” if the employer is subjected to an audit of its I-9 Forms by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the federal agency responsible for immigration enforcement). Employer sanctions for paperwork violations (e.g. the failure to correctly complete and maintain I-9s, including, but not limited to, the employer’s failure to timely prepare an I-9, the failure of the employee to provide a printed name or to check the status box, and the failure to indicate the starting date of employment) range from $110 to $1,100 for each I-9, depending on the nature and number of violations identified on each form.

Employers do not need to complete the new I-9 Form for current employees for whom there is already a properly completed I-9 Form already on file, unless and until the employer is required to reverify the employee’s work authorization (such as when the employee extends their non-immigrant work-authorized status).

The I-9 Form is deceptively simple and one of the most misunderstood federal government forms. It is notable that while the actual form is only 2-pages, the USCIS Handbook for Employers (M-274, revised 3/8/13) providing guidance for completing the I-9 Form is 66-pages. Employers must be especially careful in today’s political climate where the current administration continues to focus on the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws by imposing stiff penalties on employers through increased I-9 audits.

The procedure by which the I-9 form is completed and audited is just as important as the information provided on the form in the eyes of the enforcement agencies.