Are Your Form I-9s Ready for the End of COVID-19 Flexibilities?

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Since November 7, 1986, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has required employers and employees to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9. Employers must have Form I-9 documents for every hired employee, citizen and non-citizen alike.

Employees must provide their employer with acceptable documentation confirming their identity and clearance to work on the employment authorization form. Employers must then examine the presented documents and verify whether everything is genuine, adheres to the Form I-9 requirements, and is related to the employee in question. Employers must retain this form throughout employment and be ready to present it for inspection if authorized government officials request it.

Pre-COVID

Per the DHS, employers must physically examine the completed Form I-9 documents. This requirement holds even when the employee does not live in the employer’s local area. In such cases, the employer must hire an authorized agent to verify the Form I-9 in person for them. Whether the employer or an authorized agent verifies the form, the verification must be completed within three days of hiring the employee.

COVID Flexibilities

Due to COVID-19, the DHS allowed employers the flexibility of remotely inspecting Form I-9 documents for employees working remotely. This flexibility began on March 20, 2020, and was extended on April 1, 2021. It was extended again on May 1, 2022. As of now, the flexible requirements will expire on October 31, 2022. Employers may utilize this flexibility when verifying Form I-9 documents only if the employees working from home do so due to COVID-19 precautions. Once this flexibility expires, employers who examined Form I-9 documents remotely must verify the forms in person within three business days.

The End of COVID-19 Flexibilities

The return to verifying Form I-9 documents in person may prove complex for many employers, especially with the returned time limit of three business days. In light of this, the DHS took public comments until May 31, 2022, on the possibility of allowing the permanent flexibility of remotely inspecting Form I-9 documents. It remains to be seen whether the DHS will keep this change for future verifications.

Completing the Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9, can be a complicated and confusing process, in person and remotely. Utilizing an electronic I-9 management tool can make the process easier because it guides hiring personnel through the complete process. In addition, such management tools help ensure the forms and documents are filled out and stored correctly.

Learn more about automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.

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