Many employers started using flexible working policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing employees to work part-time or full-time remotely. If you are one of these employers, you may have taken advantage of some of the flexibilities the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has allowed. For example, the DHS has temporarily deferred the requirement to physically inspect workers’ identity and employment authorization documents in person when they begin employment as part of completing Form I-9.
However, after October 31, 2022, this will no longer be allowed. Instead, employers must return to physically inspecting all new employee’s identity and employment authorization documents. Furthermore, employees whose records underwent remote inspection must have their documents reviewed in person. Finally, you must update the employees’ Form I-9s after physically reviewing the remotely inspected paperwork. All employers must comply with these requirements regardless of whether you continue operating remotely.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues the Employment Eligibility Form (Form I-9), which all employers must complete for their employees, regardless of citizenship status. Generally, employees must physically provide various documents to prove their identity and work authorization to complete Form I-9. They must complete this form within three business days of when they start working.
Once the employee presents these documents, the employer must examine them with the employee physically present. With the employee present, the employer will determine whether they appear genuine and relate to the worker.
In March 2020, the DHS decided to temporarily defer the in-person requirement for examining identity and work authorization documents. Instead, they allowed employers to collect, inspect, and retain Form I-9s remotely. In these cases, employers reviewed these documents over platforms such as Zoom, email, fax, and others. This temporary flexibility covered only those cases where employees worked remotely, which the DHS defined as employees who are not physically present at their work sites on a predictable, consistent, or regular basis.
Initially, the deferral should have expired in April 2021. Instead, it has been extended several times since then and should end on October 31, 2022. Therefore, as of November 1, 2022, all new hires must complete the Form I-9 verification process in person. Additionally, any remotely onboarded employees must report to their employer in person to verify their Form I-9 documentation. Once done, the employer must update the employee’s Form I-9 by adding “documents physically inspected” along with the inspection date to Section 2 or 3, as appropriate.
These changes show how confusing it gets when completing Form I-9. The best way to ensure correct and completed Form I-9s is by using an electronic I-9 management system. This tool guides personnel through every step. Finally, an electronic I-9 management system safely secures the forms and accompanying documentation.
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