The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that it might be changing the examination procedures for the Employment Eligibility Verification process (Form I-9). Form I-9 has often proven complicated for employers to complete and file. Unfortunately, this complexity worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic when many workplaces switched to remote work.
After the United States declared a national emergency because of the pandemic, the DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implemented some flexibilities beginning in March 2020. These flexibilities temporarily removed the requirement to review I-9 documents in person if the company chose to operate remotely due to COVID-19. These flexibilities have been extended since then and will expire on October 31, 2022, if not prolonged again.
Another extension is possible as the DHS has stated that it is considering making these flexibilities permanent. In addition, the DHS recently published a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), intending to give the department flexibility in carrying out the Form I-9 process.
Although the NPRM will not make these flexibilities permanent, it will give the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to extend the flexibilities, provide other options, or conduct a pilot program to evaluate an alternative procedural option. As this demonstrates, the DHS realizes that remote work has become increasingly common and that requiring employers to review I-9 documents in person does not work well for many businesses.
The NPRM describes several potential changes to the I-9 process. These could include some retention requirements that require employers to keep copies of documentation, like under the existing flexibility rules. The DHS may also require individuals who examine Form I-9 documents remotely to receive training in detecting fraudulent documentation and anti-discrimination training.
The DHS will also decide which employers will be eligible for the new alternative procedures. For example, it might require an employer to enroll in e-verify or be in good standing if registered already. The DHS may also decide to place limits on employers subject to fines or settlements related to employment eligibility verification processes.
As these potential changes demonstrate, the regulations regarding the Form I-9 process are continuously evolving. For many employers, it can be challenging to keep up with the ever-shifting regulatory environment. However, one of the best ways to help ensure continued compliance is with an electronic I-9 management system. Management systems can guide hiring personnel through every step of the employment eligibility verification process and guarantee safe and easy-to-use storage of forms and documentation.
Learn more about automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.