On March 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it would lessen its restrictions by deferring the physical presence requirements associated with the I-9 document for employers operating remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Which Employers Will Qualify for Remote I-9 Verification?
- Employers with employees who are exercising physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 are not required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization document in the employee’s physical presence. There are no exceptions made to employees who are still physically present at a work location, in which employment eligibility should still be verified in-person.
- The DHS will evaluate eligibility for employers whose newly hired or existing employees are subject to coronavirus quarantine protocols on a case-by-case basis.
Guidance for Employers Operating Remotely
- Employers can inspect the I-9 documents remotely through video link, email, or fax within three business days of employment start date. All documents should be retained, regardless of format.
- Employers choosing this option must provide written documentation of the company’s remote onboarding process and telework policy for each employee.
Employers not eligible for this exception have the option to designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to review new hires’ documents. A representative that is well versed in the Form I-9 compliance such as a law firm or notary should be utilized by the employer to avoid any violations.
The flexible provisions for I-9 requirements are effective for a period of 60 days from the date of March 20, 2020, OR within three business days after the termination of the Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak issued on March 13, 2020, whichever comes first.
Once normal operations resume, all employees onboarded remotely must then receive in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility to maintain compliance with the I-9 requirements. At the time of the inspection, employers should enter “documents physically examined” as well as the date of the inspection in the additional information field on I-9 Section 2 (or Section 3, if applicable). Employers should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay.