By: Jacqueline Valle
During the COVID-19 pandemic, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) temporarily allowed certain employers to inspect Form I-9 documentation remotely. The remote verification policy was expected to expire on April 30, 2022. However, ICE extended the flexibility through October 31, 2022.
Regular Form I-9 timelines are still enforced. Employees and employers should complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 before the employee’s start date, and Section 2 within three business days of the start date. Employers can continue to inspect Section 2 documents via video, fax, or email if they keep a copy of the documents and written documentation of the onboarding and telework policies for each employee.
applicability for the relaxed policy
The remote verification process is only applicable for employees hired after April 1, 2021 that are working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a new hire is not working remotely, an employer must use standard Form I-9 procedures. Similarly, a new hire who completed the I-9 process remotely will be required to update their documentation in person once they begin working in the office or once the policy is terminated.
Employers should follow the standard I-9 procedures under most circumstances, including using third-party verification. It is essential that employers consider the following before electing to use the flexible policy:
- Remote I-9 accommodations can create a compliance and administrative burden. If an employer can use standard procedures, they should do so.
- Physical inspection will still be required no later than three days after normal operations resume. Therefore, if an employer has multiple new hires, they will have three days to update all the individual Forms I-9.
- Employers that have already used remote verification should begin the reverification process. If an employer decides to begin physical inspection earlier than necessary, they must do so in a non-discriminatory manner.
- It continues to be unclear exactly how the remote verification process will be enforced. For example, “fully remote work” and “regular, consistent, or predictable” work have not been defined by ICE. Employers who take advantage of the relaxed Form I-9 policy may open themselves up to fines, penalties, or other consequences if ICE conducts an I-9 inspection.
form i-9 audit
In the case of a Form I-9 audit, ICE will continue to evaluate COVID-19-related completion practices, delays, and remote verification on a case-by-case basis. This relaxed inspection policy affects any employee hired after March 20, 2020. Employers that have not been able to comply due to case-specific reasons should write a memorandum for each affected employee with all applicable reasoning and details to be retained with the I-9. ICE will evaluate the reasons individually in the event of an audit.
ICE has proposed an additional regulation to provide an alternative to in-person document inspections during the I-9 eligibility verification process. While the details are currently unknown, it is possible the policy will include remote verification.
The immigration team at Chugh, LLP will continue to provide timely updates to Form I-9 policy. For help ensuring you are I-9 compliant, or for other case-specific questions, please contact your trusted Chugh, LLP immigration professional.