ICE Extends Virtual I-9 Verification Allowance for 60 days, until November 19
Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a longer 60-day extension of its remote Form I-9 document inspection policy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses and workers across the country. The new expiration date for the so-called flexible remote I-9 review process is now November 19, 2020.
For many employers, today’s announcement will elicit a sigh of relief. Introduced in late March, remote inspection (or what I call “virtual verification”) has enabled remote employers to review identity and work authorization documents remotely, rather than in-person as is normally required under the Form I-9 rules. Organizations utilizing this process must then conduct a physical inspection of the documents once “normal business operations resume.”
Thus far, ICE has not clearly defined what “normal business operations” really looks like – largely because the agency, like the rest of us, is not sure what the “new normal” will entail either. Presumably, normal operations would involve the return of individuals to the employer’s offices and workplaces, but it is unclear at this point how ICE will treat employers that utilize a “phased-in” return to work process. As we’re often saying these days in the I-9 compliance world, stay tuned for more updates!
If you’re new virtual I-9 process (or would just like a recap), see below for a summary of how the policy works, along with links to various resources. And if you have any questions or need assistance with your I-9 and E-Verify program, please drop us a line here.
Virtual Verification Recap
As we’ve discussed extensively on this blog, the virtual verification option comes with a few “strings attached” that should be considered by any HR department looking to utilize this path to complete I-9s or conduct reverifications. Here is what you need to know.
In order to use virtual I-9 verification, employers must:
- Have employees working remotely or otherwise be subject to lockdown protocols (see our blog here for determining if you qualify)
- Inspect the employee’s documents remotely (e.g., by video, email, fax, etc.)
- For new hires, ensure the I-9 is completed (both Sections 1 and 2) within 3 days of the employee’s start date
- For reverifications, ensure Section 3 is completed before the employee’s work authorization expires
- Maintain copies of the documents inspected remotely
- Maintain written documentation of the remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee
- Write “Remote inspection completed on xx/xx/xxxx” in the Section 2 Additional Information box or Section 3 for reverifications (the specific language here is relatively new – see our blog here for more information)
- Ensure that a physical in-person inspection is performed within 3 days after normal business operations resume, and the Form I-9 is updated accordingly.
Should employers continue using virtual verification?
For some organizations, virtual verification has been extraordinarily helpful. Employers operating remotely can safely onboard their new employees (or reverify existing ones) without risking the safety and health of the HR department and the newly hired workers themselves. Employers using electronic I-9 systems, in particular, have quickly adapted to the virtual process using helpful tools such as employee document capture and upload, COVID-19 follow-up tracking, and advanced reporting.
Other organizations have opted to go a different route, and use authorized representatives (which may include the new hire’s friend or family member) to conduct an in-person verification on the employer’s behalf. As we’ve discussed in the past, the authorized representative path has a lot of advantages over virtual verification, not the least of which is the fact that it’s always an available option for employers – not subject to sudden policy termination.
It’s also worth noting that the authorized representative option involves just one verification (in-person) as compared with the virtual verification option which essentially requires two steps (a virtual and an in-person verification). HR departments looking for tips and tricks on how to successfully setup an authorized representative process should check out our detailed blog here.
Thanks for reading! And once again, let me know if you have any questions or need assistance.