DHS Announces Intent to Potentially Make Virtual I-9 Review Permanent

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it plans to introduce a proposal to change the Form I-9 process. This change permits virtual inspections of workers’ identities and work authorization documents. In March 2020, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the DHS allowed employers the flexibility of virtually inspecting workers’ documentation to complete Form I-9. However, this temporary policy ends in October 2020 unless the proposal is approved.

As workplaces shifted and remote work became the norm, the virtual inspection process has become popular among employers and employees. This unified approval resulted in an abundance of comments supporting making this change permanent in a Request for Information regarding a future policy.

Later that year, the DHS proved it heard the desire for such a regulation. The proposed legislation the DHS added to its agenda is the “Optional Alternative to the Physical Examination Associated with Employment Eligibility Verification Rule.” The DHS intends to revise the regulations for the employment eligibility verification process. The revision would permit alternative procedures for the document examination process in certain circumstances or for certain employees to reduce the burden on employers and employees while maintaining the integrity of the process.

Employers have long recognized the benefits of a virtual Form I-9 process, believing the process allowed for a centralization of the process. In addition, documentation review can be performed universally by trained and experienced staff who complete the procedure professionally. It also provides additional boons, such as reducing barriers to hiring those with disabilities, which prevent them from attending in-person reviews.

With the DHS rule still in review by the Office of Management and Budget, there are still many questions about the potential new rule. For example, there are questions about what situations allow the flexibility or which employers it will apply to. In addition, employers and employees wonder what the requirements to qualify for remote inspection will be: Must the employer enroll in E-Verify? Will there be a fee? And so on.

The government has not provided a time to complete the new rule covering the virtual I-9 process. However, many employers hope it will be soon. For employers who hire foreign nationals, completing Form I-9 can be complicated, whether the process is completed in the office or virtually. The best way to ensure the process is completed correctly is to use an electronic I-9 management tool. Management tools guide hiring personnel through the entire process and safely store the documents while keeping them readily available when needed.

Streamline your hiring process with automated employment eligibility verification and ensure compliance today with I-9 Compliance.