Close up of immigration application form.The long awaited new Form I-9 is here — recently published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Employers must begin using the new form (edition date 11/14/2016), no later than January 22, 2017.  Until then, employers may use either the new form or the 03/08/2013 edition. You can find the new form on the USCIS’s website.

The most significant change with the new Form I-9 is that it now comes in a “smart” PDF version which, if completed on a computer using Adobe Reader, provides various prompts and interactive fields designed to ensure that the form is completed accurately. Among the new features, which I previously catalogued in detail, are instructional texts and pop-up alerts that force the user to make corrections as the form is filled out.

Employers, however, do not have to use the “smart” version, but instead may complete the Form I‑9 process entirely by hand using a plain paper version, which is also separately included on the USCIS’s website. And, even if an employer opts to use the “smart” version, the completed form must still be printed out and signed by the employee and the employer’s representative (and, if applicable, by any preparers and translators).

Employers also should be aware that you need the newest version of Adobe Reader to use the “smart” PDF form.  At this time, other versions of Adobe and other types of PDF viewers will not open the “smart” form.

The new Form I-9 itself – both the “smart” and paper versions – includes a number of notable changes. For instance, Section 1 of the form now asks the employee to list “other last names used” rather than “other names used.” Another important revision is that an employee who identifies as an “alien authorized to work” now must list only one number from among the employee’s alien number, I-94 admission number, and foreign passport number, rather than listing multiple numbers as previously required.

Given the recent increase in fines for Form I-9 violations and the more aggressive stance on immigration enforcement expected from the Trump Administration, it is critical for employers to ensure that all of their facilities and worksites are using the new Form I-9 after the January 22, 2017 effective date. Don’t forget: It is a violation of the Form I-9 regulations to use an expired version of the form, even if the form is otherwise completed correctly.