Employing Foreign National Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With international borders facing severe restrictions and embassies working at limited capacity, immigration has been immensely limited for the last 18 months. However, despite this, employers have continued to find foreign national workers employed through means such as the H-1B visa, an immensely useful solution for finding skilled labor. Let’s take a look at some of the big changes that have occurred in hiring immigrant workers over the last year.

Remote Completion of the Form I-9

Traditionally the Form I-9 has been completed on paper despite the introduction of E-Verify. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drastic change and the U.S. government has been accepting remotely verified I-9 forms for remote workers since March of 2020 under a temporary policy. This came with the limitation, however, that employers would need to perform an in-person verification once these workers had returned to the physical worksite or the policy came to an end.

Despite many changes that have come since this policy began, the policy has continued to be renewed numerous times as remote work has continued to be a norm across workplaces. The USCIS has even recently invited public comments on introducing a policy to continue remote flexibility. This could mean that remote verification for Form I-9 may become a permanent policy in the near future.

Remote Work for H-1B Workers

In addition to I-9 compliance, employers of H-1B workers that are working remotely must ensure that they remain compliant with the labor condition application (LCA) requirements and H-1B worksite rules. H-1B petitions are always specific to both employee and worksite. Employers of H-1B workers must pay attention to where the employee will be working in relation to the address on the LCA and their I-129 petition. So long as it remains within the commuting distance, they will not have to file a new petition. However, if the employee will be working at the new location for more than 60 days, a new posting of the LCA will be required in order to reflect the new remote workplace. For those employees that will be relocating further than commuting distance for longer than 60 days, a new LCA will be required and an amended petition. Failure to do this may result in sanctions and potential penalties.

Restrictions on International Travel

Though the U.S. borders are open, there are still several factors limiting travel into the U.S. for foreign national workers. First of all, they must be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a negative test within three days. There are limited exceptions to these rules. However, these will not apply to most workers. Though the restrictions have been loosening, U.S. embassies and consulates are in many cases not operating or only operating on a very limited basis. As a result, it may be difficult in many cases for individuals to renter the country.

Employer Takeaways

The pandemic has presented many challenges to employing foreign national workers; however, in many cases, this remains an excellent way for employers to find the skilled labor they need. So, despite the difficulty, many employers have continued or even increased their use of foreign national labor. One of the easiest steps employers can take to reduce the difficulty is by using an electronic I-9 management tool. This can guide personnel through every step of the process and make storing documentation properly a breeze. It can even send reminders when important deadlines are coming up to ensure your business remains in compliance.

When it comes to your employees, automation makes eligibility verification quick and simple. Ensure compliance today with I-9 Compliance.