The proposed new rule by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) suggests a virtual future for the I-9 verification process for newly hired employees. The proposal promises to extend alternative options, including making some COVID-19-related flexibilities permanent. The proposed changes could have significant repercussions for employers and I-9 compliance practices.
Purpose of the I-9 Form
Form I-9 is an employment eligibility form that must be completed by all employees in the United States. The form is used to verify an individual’s legal status to work in the United States. Form I-9 must be completed within three days of an employee’s hiring date.
How COVID-19 Impacted I-9 Verification
COVID-19 caused widespread panic and disrupted many aspects of American life, including the hiring process. Many employers were reluctant to conduct in-person I-9 verifications for new employees amid the pandemic. To address this, DHS issued temporary guidance allowing for remote I-9 verification. This guidance allowed employers to inspect documents remotely, whether over a video link, fax, or email.
The proposed rule would allow for alternative document examination procedures with respect to some or all employers. These procedures could include virtual document verification. The proposal specifies that measures must be in place to address possible fraudulent document detection.
Impact on Employers
The proposed changes to the I-9 verification process could have a significant impact on employers and employees alike. For employers, the proposal promises to extend alternative options for document examination, including making some COVID-19-related flexibilities permanent. This would include the option to conduct virtual document verification, although measures must be in place to address possible fraudulent document detection.
For employees, the proposal seeks to evaluate flexibilities related to technological advances that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes could include virtual document verification. The proposal also seeks feedback on several other I-9 issues, including training requirements for employers concerning anti-discrimination practices and document retention requirements.
Overall, the proposed changes promise to extend alternative options for document examination and further flexibility for employers in a virtual work environment. While the proposal is still under consideration and open for public feedback, it is clear that the benefits of virtual inspection initiated by COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the I-9 verification process.