During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) adjusted the I-9 requirements to provide additional flexibility. The modified process created opportunities for remote I-9 verification to verify employability among new hires. With that program, companies could meet the hiring requirements without undue health risks.
Throughout the pandemic, the I-9 flexibility was renewed several times, enabling companies to use remote inspection for a couple of years. The most recent extension is scheduled to end on July 31, 2023. As a result, companies need to prepare for a return to the previous process.
I-9 Law Change for July 2023
The current flexibility offered by DHS is scheduled to expire at the end of July 2023. As a result, companies need to prepare for more rigid processes that don’t provide the same allowances for remote I-9 inspections.
Generally, the change means reverting to the previous process, which involved in-person document verification to determine an employee’s eligibility for work. For companies relying on remote workers, this presents potential challenges if the businesses hire outside of their physical area. Employees would need to accompany their documents to an agreed-upon worksite for verification.
Alternatively, companies could designate a local agent to complete the ID checks for an I-9 verification. Typically, this involved hiring suitable professionals in an employee’s immediate area – like local attorneys or notary publics – who could complete the document on the company’s behalf. While this eliminates the location-related factors, it does lead to costs. Still, the expense is usually far less than sponsoring an employee’s travel to a worksite if they live far from the company’s offices.
Companies should consider how reverting to in-person ID checks impacts the hiring process, particularly if they hire remote workers. By putting plans in place now, the upcoming change relating to the expiration of the rules offering flexibility is easier to manage.
Additionally, remote workers returning to workplaces need re-verification if their original verification was performed remotely. While this isn’t overly challenging since they’ll be on location, coordinating with workers to ensure timely completion may require some complex scheduling and follow-up to ensure compliance.
Could Remote I-9 Verifications Become Permanent?
While the currently approved COVID-related I-9 processes are scheduled to expire at the end of July 2023, there is a chance a remote-first approach will become permanently available. DHS is exploring the option to create updated remote verification processes, potentially changing details like record retention rules and other points to shore up compliance and ensure accurate determinations. While it isn’t clear whether such changes will go into effect, companies should monitor DHS publications to learn about process updates as they roll out.
Ultimately, companies need to prepare for the expiration of COVID remote verification rules for I-9s before they expire in July 2023. That ensures companies can adjust their processes in advance of the change, leaving them prepared.
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