If you are confused about the new I9 form and rules, take heart. The Feds are, too.
A few months ago US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new version of Form I-9 with the mandate that electronically pre-populating (or auto-filling) Section 1 would no longer be permitted as of May 7. They also instituted draconian penalties between $110 and $1,100 per non-compliant form. What they failed to do is determine what the new rules mean, and they have left many with the false impression that the rules have been rescinded.
According to John Reid, general counsel to Tempworks, rumors that other government agencies successfully challenged the rule are not true. The USCIS has not changed its position. However, controversy simmers over implementation and the definition of ‘pre-populating.'
Reid spoke with a representative of USCIS on May 15. "On the call, I requested information regarding Question 8 of the USCIS Verification Division Meeting which took place on April 11, 2013 (PDF here: http://tinyurl.com/nmj2ps9). I asked whether or not an employer would be able to digitally 'capture' online, employee-inputted information for purposes of electronically populating Section 1 of Form I-9. (I gave the representative an example of an employer showing a digital overlay of Form I-9, and allowing the employee to type information into text boxes contained in Section 1),” says Reid.
No one reachable at the USCIS was able to provide an answer. “The representative from USCIS was unable to give me an answer, and escalated the question to a second-tier representative. This second representative was similarly unsure, and was only able to offer that the employee is responsible for filling out Section 1 of Form I-9. Neither representative was aware of the Division Meeting, or was aware of any recent changes to Section 1 of Form I-9.”
As many of our TempWorks Enterprise clients know, the prefill function was a handy tool in DocCenter that saved staff time during their constant flurry of paperwork. But with the new USCIS rule, we’re encouraging our clients not to pre-populate their I-9s.
As a safeguard to ensure our customers are compliant, we have created a new Form I-9 that no longer pre-fills from the Enterprise data. On this form, Section 1 fields have been changed (with the exception of email address and phone number) to required fields.
For many of you, this new form has automatically been loaded into your DocCenter. For others, we’re leaving it up to you to decide when to implement the new form. Please email us directly with the date you would like the form loaded and we will coordinate with a technician. If your company chooses not to use the new form, also please let us know via email.
A lot of employers are either oblivious to the apparent consequences of non-compliance or are scrambling to figure out the best way to work this into their onboarding processes. One of our clients, Temporary Resources, has been following the new regulations for a few weeks now. Kathryn Everhart, their HR generalist, says it’s a time-consuming annoyance, but they’re confident it won’t become a major setback.
“I’ve heard a little backlash from some of the staff because of it,” she told me, “but right now we’re just working out the most efficient way to work through this. It has been a big adjustment, but unfortunately we can’t do much about it. We have to play by the rules and that’s it.”
The new rules will negatively impact how quickly employers can fill jobs. Before this rule change, you could get the paperwork rolling right away and ask candidates to simply finalize it. With the rule, candidates need to do the grunt work of filling out forms they are often unfamiliar with.