Could Remote I-9 Document Examination Be Here to Stay?

I-9 Document Examination
September 27, 2022

As employers continue adapting to the remote and hybrid workplace, keeping an eye on one of the biggest challenges to fully remote onboarding grows increasingly crucial. This challenge is the employment eligibility verification process, otherwise called Form I-9. However, a rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could ease the struggles when processing an I-9 document.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, employers verified workers’ employment eligibility in person. However, since the pandemic, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has introduced a temporary policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This policy allowed remote employers to examine workers’ documents remotely. Allowed tools included video, fax, or email. This policy has been extended several times, with the expiration most recently set for October 31st, 2022.

In a recently proposed rule, the DHS has suggested permanent changes to the Form I-9 for remote workforces. Though the change does not explicitly provide for the virtual examination, it does permit the Secretary to introduce alternative procedures. Alternatives include pilot programs in the event of public health or other national emergencies or upon a determination that they offer an equivalent level of security.

In its proposed rule, the DHS outlined some of the alternative measures the Department is considering to provide both convenience for employers and an equivalent level of security:

  • Virtual Review of Documentation: A permanent virtual alternative for examining identity and work authorization documents for the Form I-9 process.
  • Limitations on Who May Use Alternative Methods: The DHS is considering limiting alternative verification methods to employers enrolled and in good standing with E-Verify. It may also restrict use by employers who have previously received fines or litigation related to employment verification.
  • Updated Form I-9: The DHS could update Form I-9 to include a section for employers to state whether they used an alternative procedure.
  • Additional Training for Employers: The DHS is considering introducing required training for employers to use alternative examination methods. This introduction could include fraud detection training and anti-discrimination training.
  • Physical Document Retention: Employers may have to retain physical documents, regardless of their verification method.

The DHS’s proposed rule indicates that changes are on the way, though it remains unclear what changes employers can expect. To stay compliant with the ever-shifting regulations, employers should consider utilizing an electronic I-9 system. Tools like an electronic I-9 system can simplify the process and guide hiring personnel at every step.

Automate your employment eligibility verification today with the ensured compliance of I-9 Compliance.