It has been a challenging year for many employers as a result of COVID-19, and finally, many employees are making their way back to the office. However, this is also true for the government authorities charged with immigration compliance. With deadlines for I-9 flexibility coming up and many government agencies beginning to ramp up enforcement, chances are a wave of audits are on their way as well.
As a result of the pandemic, many employers stopped paying the same level of attention to matters of compliance, and this is understandable given the amount of time employers needed to spend on managing remote work and other issues with the pandemic. This is why the government permitted flexibility in measures such as the in-person requirements. However, after several extensions which have pushed the deadline to meet full compliance until the end of the year, employers will need to adjust back.
However, making the situation more complex, particularly for the manufacturing sectors, is the nationwide shortage of workers. As these companies have been attempting to ramp up production to the levels they were at prior to the pandemic, they have struggled to find workers to fill the open positions left by the pandemic. This has led many employers to look for qualified foreign workers to sponsor in order to fill these open slots. However, sponsoring foreign nationals for temporary work visas comes with its own difficulties, a considerable number of additional responsibilities, and some long-term planning.
The most significant of these requirements comes down to planning and maintaining a proper Form I-9 for inspection. On the surface, this may seem simple, but there are a number of requirements to meet, and failure to comply will result in severe penalties, including large fines. Also, just as employers are attempting to ramp up to pre-pandemic levels, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is attempting to ramp up audits and site inspections just as it was doing before the pandemic.
The most effective way to ensure your company is in compliance, particularly if you are engaging in the complex act of sponsoring foreign nationals, is to use an electronic Form I-9 management system. This can allow for easy paperless management and storage that can ensure your documents are ready for inspection at a moment’s notice. This also ensures that documents are maintained consistently and always up to date with the latest ever-changing standards of the Department of Homeland Security.