In response to the rapidly-spreading novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, U.S. employers have been implementing a variety of employee policies and procedures. The aim of these measures is to maintain a safe workplace and environment which protects the health of employees, customers, and others, as well as to prevent the potentially deadly virus from spreading. In addition to this, organizations are taking necessary steps to ensure the continuity of their business operations, including the onboarding of newly hired employees and the proper completion of the Form I-9.
DHS Updates of Remote I-9 Verification Requirements
When hiring a new employee, Form I-9 should be completed no later than the third business day after the employee starts work for pay. A critical requirement of the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process is that completion of the employer sections requires employers to review employees’ documents that verify U.S. work authorization in their presence.
However, on March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is temporarily amending the Form I-9 verification and reverification procedures. In light of the coronavirus outbreak turning an unexpected number of US workers into remote employees, DHS temporarily allows remote verification of the original documents through an electronic medium, such as video conferencing, fax, or scanned email attachment by the employer’s representative.
According to updated requirements for remote I-9 verification, employers should adhere to the following steps:
- Employers have to review the original documents listed on page 3 of Form I-9 and submitted by the new hire through an electronic medium and complete Section 2 of Form I-9. It is critical that employers complete the remote I-9 verification within three days of the new hire’s start date and attach a copy of the documents to the Form I-9 upon completing Section 2.
- Employers should implement a formal written policy that precisely states how the employer is verifying Form I-9 documents and attach it to each Form I-9 that is remotely verified. This is where employers need to take special care to apply the remote verification policy consistently to all new hires.
- Employers also should enter COVID-19 as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field.
- When normal operations resume, all employees who completed the Form I-9 using remote verification, need to report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation.
- Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer has to add Documents Physically Examined together with the date of inspection to the Section 2 Additional Information field, or to Section 3 in case the remote examination was for reverification purposes.
These changes to remote I-9 verification requirements are effective for 60 days from March 20, 2020, or within 3 business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first. Updated I-9 requirements apply only to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. For employers with employees reporting to work at their physical locations, remote I-9 verification cannot be implemented. In this case, employers have to implement actual physical verification of the original documents to confirm Form I-9 work authorization. However, if a new hire is subject to a COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown, the employer may implement the changes to remote I-9 verification requirements.
DHS will evaluate the application of this virtual verification process for newly hired employees or existing employees subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols. Therefore, employers should be prepared to provide written documentation in case of a DHS I-9 compliance inspection.
The recently updated Form I-9 instructions specifically state that the employer’s authorized representative may be any person that the employer designates to complete and sign the Form I-9 on its behalf. In a situation such as this one caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it may be even more difficult for an employer to identify individuals who are willing and able to act as an authorized representative for I-9 purposes. Ultimately, the employer remains liable for any violations in connection with the remote I-9 verification process. Therefore, employers should develop a compliant procedure for selecting and designating an appropriate representative in the process of remote I-9 verification. They need to be especially careful to implement a policy that will meet the requirements of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) auditors. Also, employers have to remember not to discriminate or tolerate discrimination against any employee who may be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or any other disease.Use this comprehensive I-9 verification guide to find out how to achieve accuracy in completing Form I-9, ensure constant compliance with regulations, and avoid common violations.
Solving Remote I-9 Verification Challenges
As employers are ultimately responsible for any mistakes or omissions, they should pay special attention to remote I-9 verification, make sure it is error-free, and take steps to reduce the risk of non-compliance. Remote hiring can be challenging at any time without the added complexity of a global pandemic.
Since COVID-19 is changing the way businesses function, many employers have to make a balance between the possibility of exposing their staff to this contagious disease and the necessity to maintain operations. That is why most companies operate remotely during this time and, accustomed or not, use various electronic platforms to keep their business alive.
Now is the right time to consider electronic I-9 verification as well. Electronic tools for I-9 verification offer higher security, compliance, and easier document processing.
Simplify The Process of Remote Hiring and Ensure Timely Processing of I-9 Form
Emptech’s electronic I-9 solution makes timely completion of Form I-9 possible anywhere in the U.S. by enabling employers to connect remote employees to internal I-9 verifiers as well as external designees.
Our new Go-Remote feature allows you to assign Section 2 of Form I-9 to an internal designee or to a third party notary from our network. The process is simple, highly secure, and 100% compliant.
A team of I-9 analysts performs compliance checks and ensures that all information is accurate, in accordance with rigorous security measures, and submitted in time.
Go Remote helps you solve the challenges of remote I-9 verification and successfully adhere to DHS regulations while ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone involved.Handle all the components of I-9 processing with an electronic I-9 solution fully integrated with E-Verify and experience the efficiency, consistency, and control that results in seamless processing of all Forms I-9.