hand filling out W-9 income tax formEvery organization aims to improve the way they onboard new employees—typically a time-consuming process given the abundance of paperwork both the employer and new hire must complete. Adding further complexity is the fact that if mistakes occur when filling out the necessary forms, the company can face significant fines and penalties. However, recent changes to the Form I-9 have made its completion much easier—as long as employers take the time to understand the updates and how they and their employees should complete the form.

The new, revised version of Form I-9 was released in May 2013 by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to resolve confusion regarding deadlines and other factors of the I-9 process in the existing form. Twice the length of the original, the revised form provides greater clarity and instruction for filling it out, as the previous version left many employers unsure about the proper order for completing various fields. The new form eliminates this confusion by, for instance, informing employers that their new employees must complete and sign Section 1 no later than their first day of employment, but not before accepting a job offer. As such, the organization can ensure its new hires sign what they need to and when they should do so, eliminating delays in form completion and protecting against non-compliance.

Other changes to the form, though less apparent, also bring greater efficiency to the onboarding process. The form now has optional fields for the employee to enter his/her phone number and email address. While this was met with great skepticism initially, the reason for adding these fields is to make it easier for the employer to get in touch with the new employee should they require additional information. At the same time, providing this information enables E-Verify® to contact employees directly in case of a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) response, in which the employee’s information does not match government databases and instructs the person on how to correct the mismatch.

Despite the many benefits, the new form does present some challenges for organizations that are not careful about form completion. One example is the change to the Social Security number field. Rather than one large space, there are now nine individual slots to enter each digit, making it more difficult to correct possible errors that may occur. Another potential area of confusion is the “Other Names Used” field. Although an employee without a maiden name or other legal name might think the space should be left blank, they are still required to enter “N/A” in this field. Moreover, as other optional fields instruct that the employee may enter “N/A” but is not required to do so, it is recommended that “N/A” is entered into any optional field in Section 1.

Given these potential problem areas, and the increasing instances of I-9 audits and changing requirements, HR personnel and their new employees must be especially vigilant to ensure all fields are entered accurately. Also important is to streamline the process as much as possible to provide a positive experience for both employers and newly onboarded employees. Companies can utilize an electronic solution to automate the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes to facilitate compliance, avoid risks, and enhance onboarding operations, compared to paper-based methods. Using an automated strategy can help the organization mitigate the chance of errors, ensure compliance and avoid costly penalties, while enabling new employees to be productive on day one.

For additional insight into the changes regarding the new Form I-9, this webinar provides a comprehensive overview. Up-to-date information about the latest changes to I-9 and E-Verify processes can be found on the Equifax Workforce Solutions blog.

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