To adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and remote work arrangements, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implemented a temporary policy that allowed employers to conduct remote inspections of I-9 documentation.
As of July 31, 2023, that policy is coming to an end. So, what does that mean for employers?
What the end of I-9 flexibility means for you
Employers who have been conducting remote inspections of Form I-9 due to the temporary remote verification policy will need to physically inspect a worker’s original documents within thirty days of July 31.
This means that by August 30, 2023, employers will need to have completed physical inspections of the original documents and update Form I-9 accordingly for employees. This applies to employees whose documents were previously inspected remotely due to being hired on or after March 20, 2020, and who have only received a virtual or remote examination. As a reminder, 1099 workers are independent contractors and are not required to fill out Form I-9—the recent policy change will not affect contracted workers.
I-9 verification convenience and compliance
Remote I-9 verification has been a convenient resource for employers, especially those with large numbers of employees or contractors who work remotely. It has allowed them to quickly and effectively verify documents without requiring employees to travel long distances or take time off from their jobs. Additionally, it has enabled employers to maintain their compliance with federal regulations without having to pay for additional staffing or resources.
The end of this temporary policy means that employers will need to revisit their I-9 processes and determine the best methods for physically inspecting documents. Employers can use physical document inspection services, such as those provided by third party vendors, to update Form I-9 with properly verified original documents.
How to conduct I-9 verification for remote employees
To ensure compliance with federal law, employers should put processes in place now for a smooth transition back to physical inspections. This includes scheduling time with workers to present their documents and educating managers on the Form I-9 process. Remote workers should be informed that they will need to present their documents to an authorized representative of the company before the deadline.
If employees are still working from home, ICE has stated that employers can assign someone to verify their I-9 documents in-person. Employers should make sure that they have fair and consistent practices for verifying documents, no matter how they are inspected.
Agents that can verify I-9 records in person include:
- Designated employee of the employer
- Notary public
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) designated representative
The USCIS has also stated that employers should make reasonable efforts to ensure that remote employees are not disadvantaged by the change. For example, if an employee is located in a rural area and would need to travel for an in-person I-9 document verification, employers may want to consider offering financial assistance.
How to verify I-9 documents
When verifying I-9 documentation, an employer should ensure they have an individual’s valid government-issued photo ID, such as a U.S. passport or driver’s license, and one of the following documents:
• Social Security card
• Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
• Passport card
• Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
• Foreign passport with an I-94
• Birth certificate
The employer should also take copies of the documents and ensure they are properly stored. Once the required documents have been provided, employers can use Form I-9 to record information about each employee’s identity and work eligibility.
Why is I-9 verification important?
I-9 forms are used to verify the identity and work eligibility of all newly hired employees in the United States. The form is important for employers as it helps them ensure they are not hiring people who are ineligible to work in the U.S., protecting them from potential penalties.
Employers must complete Form I-9 within three days of hiring an employee and maintain accurate records of all I-9 data. It’s also important for employers to ensure that their employees have the proper documents needed to complete the form and that these documents are verified in a timely manner.
Employers also need to review existing procedures for ensuring accuracy and compliance with Form I-9 requirements, such as properly organizing Form I-9 documents and maintaining records of document expiration dates. Continue to keep copies of all I-9 documents and ensure they are properly stored in accordance with local laws. Employers should be aware that failure to comply with Form I-9 requirements can lead to significant fines.
The end of the temporary remote verification policy is a reminder for employers to update their I-9 compliance processes and make sure they are prepared for any changes that may come. With procedures and resources in place, employers can remain compliant with I-9 regulations and help protect their business from risk.
I-9 documentation management
Although physical inspection is still required, there are ways for employers to make sure that they’re not disadvantaged by the change. With the expiration of the temporary remote I-9 verification policy, companies should consider investing in necessary resources to make I-9 requirements easier for their HR and finance teams. Payroll software and other electronic I-9 solutions can help streamline document verification.
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