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In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) National Emergency Declaration, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced temporary modifications to the typical process for filing IRS Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Most importantly, the changes make it easier to hire new employees while maintaining social distancing by verifying an employee’s identification documents remotely. Previously those documents had to be physically present for an employer to verify the employee’s identity and citizenship.
How do the changes for remote I-9 verification work?
Employers with employees who work remotely will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.
Instead, when a new employee is hired, employers may inspect the documents listed in Section 2 of the form remotely (via video, fax, email, etc.) within three (3) business days for purposes of completing Section 2. Employers must still keep copies of the documents.
If employers choose to use the remote verification option, they must also provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee. Please note that the in-person exception does not apply to employees who still work on site.
How long is the remote I-9 provision in effect?
This change is in effect through either November 19, 2020, or three business days after the termination of the National Emergency Declaration.
Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification must report to their employer within three (3) business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for their I-9.
Does in-person examination of the documents still need to happen once employees return to the workplace?
Yes. Once it’s possible to physically inspect documents, employers should do so. Document the process by adding “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 additional information field on the Form I-9, or to section 3 as appropriate. Enter “COVID-19” in Section 2 Additional Information field as the reason for the delay in physically inspecting the documents.
What if our I-9s get audited?
Any audit of subsequent Forms I-9 would use the “in-person completed date” as a starting point for these employees only.
Who does remote I-9 verification apply to?
This option only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. 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.
However, if newly hired employees or existing employees are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, the Department of Homeland Security has said that they will evaluate the situation on a case-by-case basis.
Can someone else verify the identity documents for an I-9 if our location is closed?
As always, employers may designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to complete Section 2. An authorized representative can be any person the employer designates such as a law firm, a vendor, a notary, or a local employee.
What if a mistake is made in the I-9 verification process?
Employers are liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process.
Going forward, DHS has said that they will continue to monitor the ongoing National Emergency and provide updated guidance as needed. Employers should monitor the DHS and ICE websites for additional updates regarding when the extensions will be terminated, and normal operations will resume.
For more information about how employers about new requirements and how to operate safely during the COVID-19 outbreak, check out our resource center.