Tips to Complete the I-9 Process for Remote Employees

Tips to Complete I-9 Process
February 16, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted employment eligibility requirements (Form I-9), mainly through the limited temporary option implemented during the pandemic. However, the emergency caused by the pandemic will end soon, and with it, the temporary solutions. As such, employers should readjust how they complete the verification process.

Here are several options for employers operating in remote-work positions for completing Form I-9s and the current rules for various situations.

Employers now operating entirely in-office or no longer taking COVID-19 precautions must review their new hires’ identities and employment authorization documents in person. As such, they must inspect the forms with the employee physically present.

Employers can verify the identity and employment eligibility of new hires through “remote hire,” too. In this process, a third party acts as an agent of the employer. The agent can conduct the in-person verifications for all employees, not just those working remotely. However, the employers remain responsible for any errors made by their designated agent.

Another option includes the limited, temporary alternative. Established in March 2020, this alternative has received several extensions and will expire on July 31, 2023. This process allows employers to review employees’ identity and work authorization documents electronically. Electronic means include e-mail, video, fax, and more.

As of April 1, 2021, employers could use the limited, temporary option for remote employees as a COVID-19-related precaution. However, employers with a hybrid workforce of in-office and remote can use this option, too. In this case, they must produce records showing that the virtual review option became necessary due to the pandemic.

However, employers should not use this limited, temporary option for employees who started working remotely for reasons other than the pandemic. Instead, these employees should have their identity and employment eligibility reviewed through the employer’s verification process from before the pandemic.

Employers using virtual reviews must comply with its additional requirements. As such, employers should consider the following:

  • Make and keep a written document indicating the workplace’s remote onboarding and telework policy when using a virtual review to complete Form I-9s.
  • Keep copies of the document as required by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Employers must keep sensitive personal information secure.
  • Write “COVID-19” in the Additional Information field/box on Form I-9 in Section 2.
  • Inform employees that an in-person meeting will become required for physical inspections of their I-9 documentation. Employers must do so within three business days of the temporary electronic review expiration. Employers must also do so when the employee returns to non-remote work on a regular, consistent, or predictable basis, whichever happens first.

During the in-person meeting, employers should inspect and write “documents physically examined.” In addition, they must add the date and initial it in the Section 2 Additional Information field/box or Section 3 of Form I-9, as required. The employer should also ensure that the employee fills out the paperwork correctly.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) might make the virtual review of I-9 documentation permanent. However, until this happens, only qualified employers should use the virtual review option.

Whether inspected virtually or in-person, completing Form I-9s can prove complicated. The easiest way to ensure you correctly complete Form I-9 is to use an I-9 management system, which will guide you step-by-step through the whole process and safely and securely store the forms and documentation.

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