Department of State Updates Foreign Affairs Manual, Allowing Digital Signatures on Form DS-2019

Rule change allows for easier transmission of documents.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dragged the federal government, at times unwillingly, into the digital age. Especially noteworthy is the ubiquity of digital, scanned and/or emailed signatures, which have begun to replace conventional "wet" ink signatures. Digital signature acceptance has allowed for documents to be completed by one party, signed, and then transmitted to a second party for counter-signature.

On November 1, 2021, USCIS and the Department of State jointly issued guidance that wet signatures were no longer required on Form I-20 and USCIS published a rule to that effect. Please find BIG's article on that topic here.

On April 28, 2023, the Department of State amended the Foreign Affairs manual to remove the "wet signature" requirements for Form DS-2019. Section 9 FAM 402.5-6(J)(1)(U)(d) now reads that "Digital Signatures are also acceptable." Notably, the change does not allow for the "scanned and emailed" version of the Form DS-2019, unlike the Form I-20.

The rule benefits employers who can now onboard employees and complete Form I-9 with a digitally signed Form DS-2019. Employees may proffer the Form DS-2019 in conjunction with the Foreign Passport and Form I-94 as a List A document combination, or as a List C document combined with a List B document. If using the Form DS-2019 as a List C document, employers are required to review the Form I-94 and encouraged to record the Form I-94 information in the "Additional Information" field of Section 2.

If you have any questions about Form I-9 or E-Verify compliance, please contact your BIG account manager.

Posted: May 5, 2023

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