USCIS has published a new I-9 form and instructions effective as of March 8, 2013. You may begin using the new form now, but you may continue to use the old form until May 7, 2013. After that date the new form is mandatory.
The new form is a fillable PDF, but you may also print blank forms and complete them by hand.
The I-9 form is now 9 pages, 7 of which are instructions. One page is for the employee to complete and one is for the employer to complete. A third page contains a list of acceptable documents. The remaining pages are detailed instructions. USCIS considers the entire 9 pages to be the form that should be kept in the file or given to employees for their completion. You may copy double-sided, however.
The substance of the law related to verifying employment has not changed. The I-9 is easier to read and the instructions are clearer. USCIS maintains a site called “I-9 Central” (www.uscis.gov/I-9Central) that contains many resources for employers, including examples of acceptable documents. Free trainings are also being offered on the new form.
We appreciate USCIS providing a better form and more detailed guidance. BUT (and you knew there would be “but”) employers should keep in mind that government resources and advice is not the same as legal advice. We have not yet combed through the instructions to this new form, but it is unlikely that even this more detailed format contains every nuance of the law as it applies to your specific questions. The fact that you rely on USCIS instructions and informal advice will not exculpate you from liability for potential fines or penalties.
Finally, remember that all government forms are FREE! (The emails offering to sell you I-9s should start any time now.)
Cudos to USCIS for improving the I-9 process and providing public outreach.