By Kate Kriner, PHRca

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“USICE”) has announced the inevitable end to the COVID-19 exception from the physical inspection of employment eligibility documents (i.e., social security card, driver’s license, U.S. Passport) requirement associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) for employers who are or were working exclusively in a remote setting. If you have already shifted your operations back to in-person, you may have already corrected your Form I-9s. 

Let’s assume all employees have been working fully remote and are returning to in-person operations, or you have not corrected your previously completed Form I-9s where the employment eligibility documents had been remotely inspected.  As part of the transition back to in-person operations you will need to create a plan or a process for physical inspections of employment eligibility documents for both those employees who were onboarded remotely and continue this process moving forward for any employees you intend to onboard even those who work and live geographically far from your offices.

Here are the instructions from USICE:

“Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification, must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for the Form I-9. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection and who inspected the documents to the Section 2 “Additional Information” field on the Form I-9, or to Section 3 as appropriate.”

While the exception for remote physical inspection of employment eligibility documents will end on July 31, 2023, the deadline to complete the in-person inspection for those you onboarded with remote inspection is August 30, 2023.

If you are not able to physically examine the documents or if the employee is not able to come to your office then you may need to retain an “authorized representative” to complete the inspection for you. (Please note you may assign another employee or manager to be your authorized representative.)  There are now businesses offering Form I-9 services, including inspection of employment eligibility documents for Section 2, to other companies. Another option would be to require your employees to come to the office for their first (or second or third) day of employment and complete the Form I-9 with other onboarding tasks.

Now for some potential good news… DHS is considering alternative procedures allowing for a more permanent process for remote documentation inspection.  We hope to see movement on that later this year.

As always, contact your favorite Silvers HR consultant to think out loud.