USCIS Formalizes COVID-19 Guidance Relating to Electronic Signatures and Transmission of Form I-20

The new regulation clarifies that 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f) and (m) do not require an original signature.

On December 12, 2022, USCIS published an Interim Final Rule, effective immediately, that formalizes the October 2021 guidance, which allows for designated school officials (DSOs) to electronically sign Form I-20 and electronically transmit it (through email or other secure means) to the student. This represented a change from a prior policy which alluded to a requirement that the Form I-20 be an original document with wet signatures.

The Interim Final Rule is available here and provides for numerous technical updates to issues surrounding F, J, and M visaholders, namely student visa and exchange visitor admissions and recordkeeping. Importantly for employment verification purposes, USCIS takes the position that there never was any original signature requirement because the prior regulation uses the phrase "properly endorsed" without specifying a method of endorsement. USCIS further takes the position that the term "original" as used in the prior regulation could have been referring to the first Form I-20 as opposed to subsequent Forms I-20.

For employers, this means that it is permissible to accept a Form I-20 that contains electronic signatures, wet ink signatures, or a combination of both as well as Forms I-20 that are signed by one party (using a signature method of choice) and then scanned, emailed, and signed by the other party (using their own signature method of choice).

Business Information Group is constantly monitoring the ever-evolving landscape to ensure organizational compliance in employment eligibility verification and ensure proper protocol for completing Form I-9. If you have any additional questions, please contact your BIG account manager or sales executive.

Source: Federal Register, December 12, 2022

Posted: December 21, 2022

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