In response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduces temporary changes to the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification process and enforcement actions. These changes range from remote I-9 verification to extension of E-Verify resolution deadlines.
The latest update of E-Verify requirements follows the DHS relaxation of Form I-9 review processes, allowing employers to conduct a virtual verification of I-9 documents during the coronavirus outbreak. This approach was initiated to prevent the spread of the virus and lessen the effects of a global pandemic as more employers are incorporating remote working practices for their employees.
E-Verify and Tentative Non-Confirmations
E-Verify is an internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 to data from DHS and SSA records, allowing employers to view a newly hired worker’s employment eligibility electronically. Using E-Verify is voluntary for many employers, but it is mandatory for federal contractors and employers in some states.
An employer receives a confirmation of authorized employment when the information provided by an employee matches that in the E-Verify database. In case the information does not match, a Tentative Non-Confirmation (TNC) is returned, requiring both the employee and employer to take steps toward resolving the matter. A TNC can originate from either the SSA (an SSA TNC) or from the DHS (a DHS TNC) depending upon where the mismatch is occurring.
According to E-Verify requirements, an employee who decides to contest the TNC has to make contact with either SSA or DHS within eight federal government working days. Employees with SSA TNCs need to visit a local SSA office and DHS TNCs can usually be resolved over the phone. Failure to make contact within the eight-day period can lead to a Final Non-Confirmation from the E-Verify system and termination of employment.Learn how to manage the Form I-9 efficiently while limiting exposure to common and costly mistakes and stay in compliance with stipulated timeframes and regulations.
Changes to E-Verify Requirements Caused by COVID-19
Updates of E-Verify requirements primarily refer to TNCs, used to detect if the employee’s information submitted from Form I-9 does not match government records. Resolving TNCs can be complex even under normal circumstances, especially when there is an error in the government systems. Now, in response to numerous COVID-19 related closures and social distancing directives, E-Verify requirements have altered. As a result, the time period given to employees to make initial contact with SSA or DHS has been suspended because of the recent closures of all SSA offices nationwide. Temporary changes of E-Verify requirements include:
Employers are still required to create cases for their new employees by the end of the third business day after hire and use the hire date from the employee’s Form I-9 when creating the E-Verify case. If case creation is delayed due to COVID-19 precautions, the employer should select “other” from the options shown and enter “COVID-19” as the specific reason.
If employers receive a TNC after E-Verify submission, they are still required to notify an employee as soon as possible, so they can decide whether to contest the TNC. Employees who choose to take action to resolve a TNC will be referred to SSA or DHS as usual.
This is where the change of E-Verify requirements occurs as a result of COVID-19. E-Verify is automatically extending the timeframe to take action to resolve SSA TNCs as well as the timeframe to take action to resolve DHS TNCs in limited circumstances caused by public or private office closures.
Also, employers are warned not that they may not take any adverse action against an employee because the E-Verify case is in interim case status, including an extended interim case status. Interim case results include Tentative Non-confirmation, Verification in Process, and Case in Continuance.
E-verify Customer Support
E-Verify Contact Center representatives are still available, and employers can engage in activities, such as enrolling in E-Verify, creating new cases, adding, deleting, or editing user accounts. They can also reset passwords, run reports, or view any information about an account or case.
Employment Immigration Enforcement Actions during COVID-19
In 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues with enforcement actions. While heightened enforcement against employers remains, employers have had difficulty responding to recent NOIs within the short time permitted for doing so because of the pandemic. As a result, DHS has granted an automatic extension for 60 days. At the end of this extension period, DHS will determine if a further extension should be granted.
However, employers are reminded that enforcement actions are continuing and complete compliance with Form I-9 requirements is of the utmost importance to prevent civil and criminal penalties. If employers are in a situation that prevents verification, they need to document this thoroughly and conduct an accurate verification as soon as reasonably possible.
Despite DHS’s relaxation of I-9 verification and E-Verify requirements, employers remain responsible for any mistakes or omissions during the process. With different advantages, such as security, compliance, E-Verify integration, and easier document processing, this is an ideal time for employers to consider electronic tools for employment eligibility verification. Employers can replace manual procedures with an automated online process that includes electronic forms and documents, electronic signatures, and audit trails. As a result, they can be ready for potential enforcement actions, successfully adhere to DHS regulations, maintain compliance with new E-Verify requirements, and ensure using the correct version of the Form I-9.Handle I-9 processing with an electronic solution fully integrated with E-Verify and experience simplified employment eligibility verification together with reduced fines and hiring costs.