COVID-19 Update: Remote Document Inspection
On Sunday, July 19, 2020, a temporary Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy permitting employers to conduct remote reviews of I-9 supporting documentation will expire. Unless ICE extends the policy, employers must conduct in-person I-9 document inspections – for new hire I-9s going forward, and all existing I-9s where documents were reviewed remotely. Ending this temporary policy now raise concerns about an employers’ ability to comply with both social distancing guidelines and employment verification requirements. Given the ongoing public health crisis, we are hopeful that ICE will extend its remote inspection policy. However, since there is no certainty:
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed along the way. We will send a follow-up alert on this topic on Friday unless ICE announces an extension or end to the policy earlier.
Please continue reading for more details, which recap the temporary remote document inspection policy and what to plan for should the policy end on July 19.
The I-9’s Document Inspection Requirements
Under “normal” circumstances, US employers are required to verify the identity and employment authorization of all new hires within three business days of the employee’s first day of work for pay using the Form I-9. This verification requirement includes the physical inspection—in the employee’s presence—of Section 2 or Section 3 supporting documentation provided by the employee.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and many organizations’ abrupt shift to “working from home,” compliance with the physical inspection requirement became challenging. In response, ICE adopted a more flexible approach to I-9 document inspection, designed to enable employers to protect the health and safety of their workers while also maintaining good-faith compliance.
Under the temporary policy, employers who are operating remotely:
- Can receive and review employee documentation by video conference, email, or fax.
- Must keep a record of all new hires for whom the physical inspection requirement has been deferred.
- Must enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the delay of in-person inspection in Section 2 of each I-9.
- Must complete physical inspections of all I-9 supporting documentation for remotely onboarded employees within three business days of resuming in-person operations.
ICE’s Flexible Approach Defined
Under ICE’s “flexible” approach to I-9 document inspection, all employers must demonstrate good-faith compliance depending on the current state of an employer’s operations.
- Employer locations that are not 100% remote are expected to conduct in-person document review and verification. ICE has said it may make case-by-case exceptions, but ICE has not provided guidance on what would trigger these exceptions.
- Employer locations that were 100% remote but begin to bring their employees back to the workplace must conduct in-person document review and verification, as their operations would no longer be considered fully remote. Those employers are responsible for completing retroactive in-person inspections of I-9 documentation and updating the Form I-9 for any new employees who were onboarded remotely during the location closure.
- Employer locations that continue to operate 100% remotely can continue to inspect documents remotely so long that the temporary policy remains in effect.
What Happens When ICE Ends the Flexible Approach?
If ICE allows its flexible approach to I-9 verification to expire without providing further guidance:
- · Employers operating remote onboarding would be required to conduct in-person I-9 document review and verification for all new hires going forward.
- · No later than Thursday, July 23, employers operating remote onboarding will need to physically inspect the previously reviewed I-9 documents in the presence of the employee and update the I-9 accordingly.
- Employers seeking to comply with both the I-9 verification requirements and social distancing guidelines should consider using Tracker’s Remote I-9 workflows, including options for designating a friend, trusted neighbor or an individual in the employee’s household to physically inspect the document and complete Section 2. You can learn more about these remote I-9 options in a recent post on the Tracker blog.
– The I-9 Support Team
As we enter new phases of the pandemic, our national and regional response to the COVID-19 frequently changes. We received confirmation that DHS extended the temporary Remote Document Inspection option an additional 30 days, until July 19, 2020 (note there is a possibility the policy may end earlier). As long as the policy remains in effect, employers may continue to inspect document remotely under certain circumstances. As long as the policy remains in effect, employers may continue to inspect document remotely under certain circumstances.
Tracker will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed along the way to help your organization prepare for any future changes.
Have questions? Contact us today and we’d be happy to help.
The changes described in the recent DHS announcement are designed to help employers complete I-9s more safely. However, the DHS alternative introduces several follow-up actions and complications that you can avoid if you use Tracker’s Remote Section 1 & 2 feature.
Remote I-9 Document Review: DHS now permits the in-person requirement to physically inspect the employee’s document to be deferred if the new hire works remotely. The employee’s identity and employment authorization documents can now be inspected via “video link, fax, or email, etc.” for the time period described below. This “virtual” document inspection must still occur within the Section 2 compliance deadline (no later than the third business day after the employee starts work for pay). Employers must retain a copy of the documents inspected and take other steps to document this process.
The Catch: As soon as “normal operations resume,” employers are expected to physically inspect the previously reviewed document in the presence of the employee and update the I-9 accordingly. More details below:
Noteworthy Exceptions: New hires reporting to work at the employer’s physical location must continue to meet face-to-face with the employer representative for Section 2 completion (scenarios 1 & 2 described above). The new DHS option only applies to the “Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19.”
Policy Effective Date and Duration: This DHS policy change takes effect March 20, 2020, and lasts for the next 90 calendar days OR three days after the federal government declares an end to the National Emergency, whichever comes first. DHS may extend these changes if the National Emergency status persists.
Have questions about I-9 and E-Verify processing workflows? Contact us today and we’d be happy to help.
USCIS Extends Eligibility for I-9 Identity Documentation Due to COVID-19
Due to COVID-19, USCIS has issued a temporary policy extending eligibility for certain I-9 identity documents.
The temporary policy, which was implemented on May 1, 2020, states that Form I-9 List B identity documents with expiration dates on or after March 1, 2020, will be valid for I-9 purposes, provided they have not been extended by the issuing authority. The temporary policy was enacted because many identity documents, such as state ID cards and driver’s licenses, cannot be renewed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency notes that within 90 days after the temporary policy ends, employees must provide current identity documents to replace the expired documents that they submitted with their applications during the pandemic. Employees will ideally provide a current version of the same identity document that they originally submitted. However, USCIS will also accept an unexpired version of a different document in List A or List B. Applicants should list the original identity document and its replacement, along with the word “COVID-19,” in Section 2 of the Form I-9 marked “Additional Information.” If the employee submits an acceptable expired document from List B that has been extended by the issuing agency, the employer should note the document’s expiration date in Section 2 and write “COVID-19 EXT” in the Additional Information Field.
This temporary measure follows a relaxation of the I-9 physical presence requirements issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Employers that are taking precautions to avoid the spread of coronavirus do not have to perform an in-person inspection of qualifying identity documents as is normally required. Instead, they must inspect documents used for Section 2 remotely. They must also receive, inspect, and make copies of the original identity verification documents within three days after inspecting the documents remotely. Employers should note “COVID-19” in the Additional Information Field in Section 2 as the reason for a delay in physical document inspection when completing the I-9 documentation. Employers should also note the date that they inspected the original documents in the Additional Information section.
Learn more about USCIS List B document requirements during COVID-19 with Julie Pearl and SHRM.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently added a dedicated Q&A webpage to their site to address the new temporary Form I-9 and E-Verify policies that have been implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Q&A page includes new information and guidance that will be helpful for any organization hiring during the COVID-19 crisis.
You can view the entire USCIS Q&A page on its website.
Key Highlights of USCIS’s New Temporary Form I-9 and E-Verify Policies
- Virtual verification of Section 2 or Section 3 documents is permitted under certain conditions for employer I-9 verification, but there’s a catch.
- “COVID-19” should be entered in Section 2 additional information field for employers following the virtual document verification workflow.
- Within three business days after “normal operations resume,” employers who virtually inspected documents must inspect the original documents in the presence of the employee. After the in-person review has taken place, employers should annotate the I-9 with the date of the physical inspection and who conducted it. This is a new requirement.
- If an employer conducts a virtual review for reverification (Section 3) they should enter “COVID-19 EXT” in the margin of Section 2 additional information field.
- Employers can accept driver’s licenses and/or state-issued IDs that expired on or after March 1, 2020, if the state has extended the expiration date due to COVID-19. Enter the document’s expiration date in Section 2 and enter “COVID-19 EXT” in the Additional Information field.
Have questions about I-9 and E-Verify processing during the COVID-19? Contact us today and we’d be happy to help.
DHS announced on 3/20/2020 that it will allow remote verification (followed by in-person verification later) during COVID-19 shelter procedures
The Network Alliance has announced it is shutting all centers, in light of shelter-in-place orders, so Tracker is taking these measures to ensure our customers can continue with their I-9 processing and not unduly hold up the onboarding of any employees. We have developed an approach to remotely guide your hires in Section 2, leveraging our co-founder’s highly ranked immigration/I-9 law firm and our existing I-9 Help Center plus our Tracker I-9 Remote-Mobile functionality.
VIRTUAL I-9 PRO:
Wherever your new employee is, they can stand 6+ feet away from their chosen neighbor or friend or other person near their home, to complete the in-person document review. If that person or your employee wants guidance on completing Section 2 for you, Tracker’s Virtual I-9 Pro service (staffed by immigration paralegals and attorneys) will be available by phone or video, as preferred. In 3-5 minutes, without risk of exposure or violating shelter-in-place orders, they can complete the tricky in-person component. See below under WANT MORE INFO. You will be able to see in your Tracker I-9 system what they have entered and you can centrally finish the I-9 and E-Verify as you always have. We will honor the Network Alliance fees, just as in your current contract.
For your convenience, all Tracker I-9 Complete customers who have the Network Alliance option be sent links for calendaring the Virtual I-9 pro appointments. We are aiming to quickly build this as an automated link that your new hires can use, so they can self-select the Section 2 Authorized Representative (see below) and the time slot for the guidance.
If you don’t currently have the Network Alliance option and would like to enable the Virtual I-9 Pro functionality for your organization, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
WANT MORE INFO?
It’s widely discussed in the media now that the I-9 form is putting new people at risk, as it is the only onboarding document that requires an in-person showing of original documents (Section 2 Document Review). DHS announced on 3/20/2020 that it will allow remote verification (followed by in person verification later) during COVID-19 shelter procedures. However, the requirements for doing the DHS-approved COVID verification are so cumbersome that many employers are choosing to simply take advantage of Tracker I-9 Complete, which keeps your employees secure and on track during and beyond COVID. Even if they can’t go to a testing or Network Center, the rules allow you to designate an “Authorized Representative” (AR) for Section 2.
Who can be an Authorized Representative or AR?
The federal rules are wide open. It can be a notary (but the notary can’t charge in some states, like in California, and can never use their notary seal per DHS rules). More commonly, it is a friend, neighbor, coworker, banker, clergyman or almost anyone else you know well enough to ask. A best practice is for the AR to be over 18 and not a family member. They simply need a mobile device.
How it works:
You already have the capability now via our unmatched Tracker I-9 Remote-Mobile functionality to send a secure link via email for any AR the employee or you select to review the I-9 documents.
The employee can arrange to meet them outdoors – near a front porch or in a park or parking lot, etc. Find a surface to put the ID documents on (gloves are recommended) and walk 6 feet or more away. The AR can then approach the documents, inspect them and enter the few required fields into their own smartphone via the link provided by the Tracker system to their email address. The AR then walks away and the employee recovers their documents. You’ll have what you need in your Tracker I-9 system, without worrying about the four additional requirements (some now and some in the future) for following COVID remote procedures announced by the DHS.
Questions? email@example.com or reach out to your dedicated services team.
Fred Colman, President
Here at Tracker, we are closely watching the developments around COVID-19, aiming to help with the well being and safety of our customers, employees, company, and community. We are committed to providing you the tools you need to maintain compliant and secure workforces regardless of the situation.
Completing an I-9 form for a remote employee during a global pandemic can be especially tricky due to the face-to-face identification verification requirement in section 2, which must be done within three business days. USCIS has confirmed that even in the wake of COVID-19, the “employer or authorized representative must physically examine” the documents and “reviewing or examining documents via webcam is not permissible.”
One major advantage of Tracker I-9 Complete is that you can complete this step for employees anywhere in the U.S. via Tracker’s remote onboarding processing features
New hires don’t need to come to a physical office location if you designate an “authorized representative” and use the remote features. If you are unsure of whether you have enabled this feature, or how to take advantage of this feature, please reach out to your support team representative and they will be happy to assist you. Tracker I-9 Complete’s mobile functionality allows any new hire to complete the task within 3-5 minutes with the help of an “authorized representative,” who can legally be most people who are over 18 and not a family member (a fellow employee, neighbor, banker, Starbucks barista, etc.).
In the case of employees who may not have access to someone who can help them complete this form, Tracker has partnered with a nationwide mobile notary network and over 20,000 help centers nationwide. Tracker’s mobile dashboard allows users to securely monitor I-9 deadlines and workflows remotely.
We are closely monitoring the situation at this point, and we will stay in touch with any additional updates from USCIS and other Federal Agencies.
The Tracker team has also made adjustments to reflect the ongoing support and health for our customers including:
- Canceling or postponing all in-person client events and demos through the end of April. We will be primarily focused on a digital-first experience at Tracker.
- Ramping up digital training and education starting next week. Our goal is to help share more tips, training, and education on how you can leverage Tracker I-9 remote during this challenging time. Be on the lookout for more updates here in the coming weeks.
- Focusing Tracker’s social content and conversation around helping employers during this uncertain time and providing resources around remote work and productivity. Please continue to follow us on Twitter and on LinkedIn for the latest updates and news pertaining to remote hiring and compliance.
For additional questions on how we are addressing our business operations, as well as critical features in Tracker that could support your team during this time, please visit our help center FAQs. We are committed to your well being and success. If there is anything further we can do to support you, please reply to this email and let us know.
Fred Colman, President