As a crucial component of the employee onboarding process, Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) is typically completed by a new employee within three days of hire, proving identity, employment eligibility and work authorization in the United States. While generally administrative in nature in a standard operating environment, organizations that shifted to a wholly remote working environment earlier last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic must remain diligent when facilitating virtual verification in the interim.
In the policy originally issued in mid-March of last year when widespread telework was implemented, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it would allow initial virtual inspections. This provision (that has since been extended six times due to COVID-19 case fluctuation across the country) includes relaxed rules for physically inspecting new hires’ identity and employment eligibility documents, providing companies the ability to review the form’s Section 2 documents remotely (via video link, fax or email) within three business days of the employee’s start date.
Note that this policy only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely and is currently set to expire on January 31, 2021. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9.
While an additional seventh extension could materialize further extending the deadline for increased flexibility, employment law specialists believe that the governing agency could ultimately issue a mandate in which all employees will need to be reverified in person, regardless of a company’s individual policy. ICE could also ultimately announce a date in which all in person inspections will need to be completed for employees whose documents were reviewed and recorded virtually – eventually holding employers responsible for facilitating in person inspections where possible or making alternative arrangements where not.
To mitigate any associated risk related to I-9 compliance spanning the telework period, employers should implement a formal written policy explicitly stating how the employer is verifying Form I-9 documents and attach the policy to each Form I-9 that is remotely verified. This process will ensure employers are applying the remote verification policy consistently to all new hires onboarded remotely.
When standard operating procedures eventually resume, any employees that had completed Form I-9 through remote verification will need to report to their employer in person within three business days upon reinstating workplace access for reverification of identity and employment eligibility documentation.
Once formally verified in person by Human Resources, it is imperative for the employer to affix “documents physically examined” to the all completed Form I-9 documents that were initially facilitated remotely, along with the date of inspection to Section 2 and also include this same language within the “additional information” field, or Section 3.
For more information regarding I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification compliance or to engage Clearview Group’s HR Consulting practice for an HR Audit to ensure continual compliance, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.