Important Changes to the Form I-9

Posted by Christy Putnam on June 6, 2017 at 9:47 AM

On November 14, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released an updated version of the Form I-9. There was a transition grace period allowed until January 22, 2017, but now all employers must utilize the correct form. Administrators should familiarize themselves with the differences between the old and new forms, and they should learn about the benefits of the new electronic version of the form.

There are three ways to complete the Form I-9, which has been required for every individual hired for employment in the U.S. since November 6, 1986, and they include:

  • Print it and complete it manually.
  • Fill it out electronically, then print and sign it. If the online fillable version is used, it must be printed and signed.
  • Use an electronic I-9 vendor.

Changes to the form were intended to help reduce errors and confusion that had previously led to common mistakes and costly fines. Still, with any change comes a learning curve. Fortunately, the new electronic version of the form (a.k.a. the "smart" form) in particular reduces the potential for error. 


Important Changes to the Form I-9

Download our infographic that lists four changes with the form
that lead to common mistakes and six benefits of using the electronic Form I-9.

The Basics

New forms do not need to be completed for existing employees; only new hires and, in some cases, re-hires. It is recommended - though not required - that Form I-9s be kept separate from other employee files. These forms must be retained for a minimum of three years after the employee's hire date or one year after termination, whichever is greater. It is also recommended to keep a list of those forms that are destroyed but, again, this is not a requirement.

The Form I-9 must be completed by the employee no later than the first date of employment, and the employer must complete section two within three business days of the employee’s start date.


It is very important for employers to complete the forms properly, as they may be fined if the form is not completed correctly and/or in its entirety.

Fines increased significantly effective August 1, 2016. For mistakes and omissions on the forms, the minimum penalty was increased from $110 to $216, and the maximum increased from $1,100 to $2,156. Penalties are also assessed for things like unlawful employment of immigrant workers (which range from $539 to $4,313 with a maximum penalty of $21,563 for multiple charges). For additional information on penalties that could apply, please visit the USCIS Form I-9 Penalties page.

The new forms are accessible, along with additional information and guidance, on the USCIS Employee Eligibility Verification page. As of this writing, the new Form I-9 was set to expire on August 31, 2019.

Topics: Human Capital Management, News Alert, Human Resources

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