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What You Need to Know About Form I-9 Verifications During COVID-19

Date Published: April 23, 2020 | Last Updated:September 15, 2023 | By Accurate Background
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UPDATE: The Department of Homeland Security has announced that the temporary flexibilities for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, will end on July 31, 2023. Employers must complete in-person physical document inspections for employees whose documents were inspected remotely during the temporary flexibilities by August 30, 2023. This announcement provides additional time for employers to complete in-person physical inspection of identity and employment authorization documents, and annotate the Form I-9 for this population. DHS had published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for alternative procedures allowing remote document examination for Form I-9 last year, and anticipates publishing a Final Rule in the Federal Register that will implement this proposal. For more information, visit this link.

For employers who want to onboard new employees, these are strange and ever-changing times. Previously, companies would find a candidate that was a fit for an open position and would run a background check to verify qualifications for the role.

Normally, upon a successful background check, the onboarding process begins. This typically includes new hire paperwork, acknowledgment of company policies, and for the new hire to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification form commonly known as the Form I-9.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a new normal – delays in retrieving information due to nationwide social distancing mandates and closing of non-essential businesses.  All of this specifically impacts the way a business can receive required documentation to process the Form I-9.

Fortunately, during this time there is some flexibility:

Receiving Form I-9 information. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that “employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.” The DHS has allowed employers (or an authorized representative) to remotely obtain, inspect and retain copies of Section 2 documents remotely (via email, fax, video link, etc.)  until the resumption of normal business. This policy will continue through at least Sept. 19, 2020. However, the government has the latitude to extend this date if necessary.

Extended expiration date for some documents. Section 2 of Form I-9 requires state IDs or driver’s licenses. However, if this information has expired on or after March 1, 2020 – and the state has extended the document expiration due to COVID-19 – then these can still be used by entering the document’s date in Section 2 and “COVID-19 EXT” in the Additional Information field.

Physical examination of documents when the pandemic is over. Once the National Emergency is declared over, all Section 2 documents must be physically examined by the company or its representative within three business days after resumption of normal business.

Employers served a Notice of Inspection (NOI) by DHS during March 2020. Starting March 19, an employer served an NOI but hasn’t responded will be granted a 60-day extension. After that, the DHS will review and decide if an additional extension is necessary.

Extended E-Verify timeframes for office closures. Due to the closure of Social Security Administration (SSA) offices to the public, E-Verify is extending timeframes to resolve SSA

For the latest information regarding temporary policies related to I-9 during COVID-19, please visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/temporary-policies-related-covid-19

For more information on how hiring has changed during COVID-19, check out our on-demand Webinar, “Background Screening During the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Employers Need to Know and Consider

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