ICE Reverses Course on Issue of Pre-Filled I-9 Forms

August 22, 2013

Agency will no longer prohibit employers from pre-filling section 1 of Form I-9.

In a recent unexpected and complete reversal of previous guidance, senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials with responsibility for Form I-9 enforcement informed members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and others that earlier statements prohibiting the pre-filling of section 1 of Form I-9 no longer reflect the agency's position and that ICE takes no official position with respect to pre-filling section 1 of Form I-9. Employers are instructed simply to follow the regulations. This issue is of particular relevance to employers that use electronic Form I-9 systems that are linked to electronic payroll or on-boarding platforms.[1]

Initially in May 2013, and then on other occasions, senior officials from ICE stated that employers should not pre-fill parts of section 1 of Form I-9. Prior to that statement, employers did not face sanctions for pre-filling section 1 of Form I-9, provided they also completed the "preparer/translator" sub-section.

What This Means for Your Business

While it now appears that there is no issue when employers accurately pre-fill section 1 of Form I-9, a conservative approach would be for those same employers to complete the section 1 "preparer/translator" sub-section as well. The relevant regulations and published agency guidance are silent on the issue of pre-filling section 1. In addition, ICE's prior position requiring employers that pre-fill section 1 to also complete the "preparer/translator" section is not clearly supported by the regulations. Nonetheless, in light of the shifting agency positions in this enforcement area, employers are advised to take a conservative approach. For additional instructions on completing Form I-9, a link to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Form I-9 Handbook for Employers can be found at


For more information, or if you have any questions regarding the issues discussed in this Immigration Alert, please contact any of the following attorneys:

Washington, D.C.
Eleanor Pelta
Eric S. Bord

San Francisco
A. James Vázquez-Azpiri
Malcolm K. Goeschl

Lisa Stephanian Burton

[1]. Read about this change in policy in our May 7, 2013 Immigration Alert, "Are You Using the Correct Form I-9?" available here.