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Can We Verify Form I-9 Documents Virtually for Remote Employees?

Last Updated on March 24, 2022 / HR Compliance, Recordkeeping

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HR Question:

As we continue to hire more employees to work remotely, can we use virtual methods to verify Form I-9 documents for our remote employees? If so, is the option for virtual I-9 verification going to end?

HR Answer:

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has extended its temporary policy allowing employers to inspect Form I-9 documents virtually through April 30, 2022.

How to Verify Form I-9 Documents Remotely

The policy to allow virtual verification was first issued in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has been extended 12 times – it is unknown at this time if this date will be extended again. Employees hired on or after April 1, 2021, working exclusively in a remote setting, are temporarily exempt from the physical inspection requirements associated with the Form I-9. Employers may examine documents remotely via e-mail, fax, video link, secure upload, etc., and complete the Form I-9 with appropriate annotations. Originally this only applied to companies that were completely operating remotely due to the pandemic. However, since April 2021, ICE stated that employers can use remote Form I-9 verification procedures for new hires working remotely, even if other employees are working onsite.

Starting May 1, Employers Cannot Accept Expired List B Documents

It is important to note that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is ending the COVID-19 Temporary Policy for List B Identity Documents. Beginning May 1, employers will no longer be able to accept expired List B documents.

The temporary policy that is coming to an end was previously enacted by DHS in response to the difficulties many individuals experienced with renewing documents during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to DHS, “Now that document-issuing authorities have reopened and/or provided alternatives to in-person renewals, DHS will end this flexibility. Starting May 1, 2022, employers must only accept unexpired List B documents.”

If an employer is presented with an expired List B document between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2022, they are required to update their Forms I-9 by July 31, 2022. See this table to ensure compliance with the updated requirements.

Have I-9 Completion Timelines Changed?

The normal timelines for I-9 completion remain in effect. Section 1 of the form must be completed by the employee’s start date, and Section 2 must be completed within three business days of the start date. Employers taking advantage of the relaxed procedures must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy to each employee.

I-9 completion can be done with a paper form or by completing an online fillable Form I-9. You will still have to print the completed form for signatures and can then scan it for storage.

Since we don’t know yet when the temporary extension of virtual document inspection will end, another option is to consider sending information, along with the Form I-9, to new hires requiring them to present their original supporting documentation to a Designated Agent who will verify their identity and complete section 2. After this is completed, they can mail the original Form I-9 to HR.

Can Form I-9s be Stored Electronically?

You can complete and store your employees’ Form I-9s electronically. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you may maintain the forms either electronically or on paper as long as you follow the established requirements. To ensure that you are storing your Form I-9s properly and for the required duration of time, see our article about electronic storage of I-9s.

Thank you to Alisa Fedders, MA, SPHR, Senior HR Advisor for contributing to this edition of the HR Question of the week.

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