Form I-9 Temporary Remote Document Review

Filling out Form I-9 was always complicated, but the pandemic increased this complexity. Some employers are still not sure when to review documentation for Form I-9 in person. After the COVID-19 pandemic began, the president declared a state of national emergency in the country due to the pandemic. Because of the state of emergency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced this rule:

Employers that are taking precautions that involve limiting physical proximity due to the COVID-19 pandemic are not required to look over their employees’ work authorization or identity documents in the physical presence of the employees. But, employers still need to remotely inspect these Section 2 documents. This can be by fax, video link, or email. The employers need to obtain, inspect, and retain copies of these documents, and this needs to be done within three business days as part of completing Section 2 of Form I-9. When using this remote process, employers need to enter COVID-19 for their reason in delaying the physical inspection required for the Section 2 Additional Information field when the physical inspection does take place after the resumption of normal operations. After the employer inspects the physical documents, they need to add the words “documents physically examined” with the date they inspected the documents in the additional information field in Section 2 of Form I-9 or, if appropriate, Section 3. Employers have 60 days after the date of notice or three days after the end of the national emergency, whichever occurs first, to fulfill these provisions. Suppose an employer chooses to take advantage of this COVID-19 rule. In that case, they must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and their telework policy for each of their employees.

This provision will remain in place through April 30th, but there are some things employers need to remember, such as:

  • Businesses are required to review I-9 documents in person once they return to normal operations. This makes it essential to keep a record of the Form I-9s that were completed while following the Covid rule so that employers can review these employees’ documents in person once this rule no longer applies.
  • The COVID rule only applies to employees and employers in a workplace that is operating remotely. The I-9 documents of any employees who physically report to work must be reviewed in person. Additionally, Section 2 of Form I-9 must be completed within three days of the time the employee shows up for their first day of work to be on time.
  • The remote examination of I-9 documents is only temporary. Although, some employers didn’t realize that it was a requirement to physically review these I-9 documents until the pandemic came along. This means that if a company is located in one city and hires employees from out of state to do remote work, the employees must bring the documents to the city the company is located in to be reviewed, or the company needs to hire someone to act as a representative at the employee’s location and inspect the I-9 documents for the employer. In this situation, the employer is still responsible for any violations that occur. Additionally, suppose an employer does not comply with this rule. In that case, it is considered a substantive violation that may result in higher monetary fines if the government chooses to do an audit.

Completing Form I-9 can be complicated and time-consuming. However, using an electronic I-9 management tool can make the whole process a lot easier. This software will guide your employees through the whole process and ensure they are complying with all regulations.

Learn more about automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.