Verifying a Form I-9 isn’t easy, but it soon may get a bit easier because employers may get the permanent option to virtually verify the information on the form.
On October 26th, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asked employers for comments on how they used remote verification options, the types of technology they use, and any technical difficulties they had when performing I-9 inspections for the previous 19 months of the pandemic. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is also asking about other options for examining physical documents. Although, the director of the USCIS stated that the request for information was for planning purposes and that the agency was not guaranteeing any changes would be made. The deadline for any input is December 27th.
Employers must complete Form I-9 for every new employee they hire to verify their identity and eligibility to work in the United States. However, during the pandemic, it became difficult for employers to verify the information on the form. Therefore, the DHS relaxed the rules to allow employers to virtually verify documents and then physically examine them at a later date. This policy is still in effect for workplaces with at least partially remote operations. For these workplaces, the documents only need to be physically inspected if an employee is going to be coming into the workplace on a regular basis. This policy will remain in effect until at least December 31st, and now the DHS is considering making some remote procedures for Form I-9 permanent in an attempt to modernize the process.
Employers like the new flexible rules, especially those that frequently hire employees for remote work. Although, some employers have expressed concern about the necessity to follow up the virtual verification with a later physical examination of the documents.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has requested that the DHS consider making the rule that allows employers to virtually inspect the documents for Form I-9 permanent. They believe the change is necessary to keep Human Resource workers healthy and safe.
The DHS is asking employers a variety of questions about how the flexible rules are working out. They want to know how the virtual methods they used for inspecting the I-9 documents worked, such as which methods worked well and which didn’t. The DHS also seems to be interested in finding out whether the results employers had while using virtual verification were consistent with their physical inspection of the documents. The DHS is also asking employers if the list of acceptable documents should be changed to work better for the remote examination of documents.
The DHS is trying to find technology solutions that will allow employers to tell if the documents they are trying to virtually verify are genuine or not. They are doing this because they have concerns that it is more difficult to spot fake documents through virtual verification than it is by a physical examination of the documents.
The DHS is clearly considering making remote review a permanent part of the I-9 process. With this, employers will be able to enjoy the added convenience that remote verification can offer, but remember that this does not mean that employers have any less responsibility in managing the I-9 process. Employers must still consistently fill out and maintain Form I-9, and this is where a digital I-9 management tool can help. This tool can help ensure Form I-9 is properly filed and maintained for inspection at a moment’s notice.