I-9 Verification Requirements Eased Due to COVID-19

On March 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would temporarily ease in-person I-9 employment verification and reverification requirements for employers who have implemented work-from-home policies and quarantine orders stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. This temporary provision is effective starting March 20, 2020 for a period of 60 days or within 3 business days following the end of the National COVID-19 Emergency (whichever occurs first).

As noted in our alert from March 20, 2020, employers or their authorized agents must complete an in-person review of Form I-9, Section 2 documents within three days of a new employee’s start date to comply with Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Employers are also required to complete a reverification of these documents before a foreign national’s temporary work authorization expires.

Employers who have implemented a work-from-home policy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may temporarily defer the required in-person document review until they resume normal operations. In the interim, DHS requires that employers use remote communication technology such as video link, fax, email, etc. to inspect the Form I-9, Section 2 documents. This virtual document inspection must be completed within three business days of a new hire’s start date with a company. Virtual reverification of Form I-9, Section 2 documents must also be completed before a foreign national’s temporary work authorization expires. Employers should retain copies of these virtually inspected documents. Employers who wish to take advantage of this temporary I-9 employment verification and reverification processes are required to provide written details of their temporary work-from-home and onboarding procedures to each employee.

Employers must complete the following once they resume normal office operations:

·     Physically inspect the Form I-9, Section 2 documents within three business days of the office re-opening;

·     Enter “COVID-19” on Form I-9, Section 2, “Additional Information” field; and

·     Upon completion of the physical Section 2 document review, add “documents physically examined” along with the document review date on either the Form I-9, Section 2 “Additional Information” field or the “Section 3” field.

This temporary ease in I-9 employment eligibility document review only applies to those companies whose entire workforce are working remotely due to the COVID-19 National Emergency. Employers who have any employees who are physically working are not eligible to follow the above procedures; however, if one of their new hires or existing employees becomes subject to a COVID-19 related quarantine or lock-down, DHS may allow these employers to use the temporary virtual employment verification and re-verification process on a case-by-case basis. In addition, these employers may designate any person as its authorized representative who can complete and sign Form I-9 on its behalf.

DHS has also granted automatic 60-day extensions to all companies that have received Notices of Inspection (NOI) in March 2020. The agency may grant an additional extension at the end of this 60-day period.