21st Century Compliance: New “Smart” I-9 Forms

October 4, 2016

Beginning January 21, 2017, employers must begin using an updated Form I-9.  The new form will be available by November 22, 2016.  This “smart” form, which includes structural changes and error-checking features, is designed to reduce areas of confusion on the form and limit technical errors that may result in fines to an employer.

Every employer is required to complete Form I-9 for all newly hired employees to prove the employer has verified the employee’s identity and work authorization.  Form I-9 is made up of three sections and employers face significant fines (up to $16,000 per employee) and possible criminal charges for Form I-9 related violations or discrimination.

How Will Form I-9 Change?

The new “smart” form is designed to help employees and employers avoid errors.  The structural changes to the form are meant to eliminate certain numerical errors (like typing in too many digits for a Social Security number or using the wrong date) with instructions embedded into each field.  The new form also includes a field where additional information can be entered, no longer requiring employers to make margin notations, and a quick-response matrix barcode to facilitate enforcement audits.

Substantively, the form no longer requires employees to enter any previously used full names.  The new form only asks employees to list previously used last names.  This change is intended to protect privacy and eliminate discrimination for transgender people.  Additionally, immigrants will now only be required to provide Form I-94 or their foreign passport information, not both, as previously mandated.  The new form will also include a new field where employers must complete information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of the employee.


Employers have long been obligated to complete Form I-9 in connection with the hiring of employees. However, come January 21, 2017, the new Form I-9 will be required. Employers should be careful not to confuse this smart form with an electronic form.  Employers must still print the form, obtain handwritten signatures, maintain a calendaring system for required updates and reverifications, and input information into E-Verify as necessary.  Employers should begin to review the form and to modify all policy documents, training materials, and procedures associated with the form.

If you have any questions about how the information in this article may affect you or your business, please contact Peter Richter at prichter@stroudlaw.com or Diana Eisenberg at deisenberg@stroudlaw.com or (608) 257-2281 or your Stroud attorney.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only, is not necessarily updated to account for changes in the law, and should not be considered tax or legal advice.  This article is not intended to create, nor does the receipt of it constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  You should consult with your own legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.