When onboarding a new employee, employers are required to collect certain identification documents in person in order to complete I-9 forms. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) relaxed the procedures for inspecting these documents because employers were limiting physical proximity and in-person meetings.
Where COVID restrictions have remained in place, DHS has continued to allow employers to review documents remotely using technologies such as Zoom, video chat, FaceTime, fax or other electronic means.
What’s Next for I-9 Compliance
We previously shared that this provision was likely to end as more workplaces return to in-person operations and fewer employees work remotely. However, DHS appears to have embraced electronic document inspection as a permanent option.
In August, the agency published a proposed rule identifying verification alternatives. The proposed rule would create a framework under which the Secretary of Homeland Security could authorize the option of reviewing employees’ I-9 documents on a remote basis permanently. DHS has been collecting comments on the proposed rule before anything can become final.
Benefits to Flexibility for Remote I-9 Document Inspection
If adopted, employers would be able to assign a dedicated, well-trained team of HR professionals to manage I-9 compliance for the entire company regardless of location, which should lead to increased compliance and lower error rates.
If the new rule goes into effect, employees who were onboarded while the relaxed rules were in place will not need to make a special trip to an employer’s location to provide their documents in person. This will save both employers and employees time and money.
Lastly, with remote verification as an official permanent option, employers may be more willing to consider a more geographically-diverse pool of potential employees, and those looking for work may have access to a broader scope of employers for remote-based jobs.
If you have questions about I-9 document verification or other human resource administration tasks, please contact MarathonHR to discuss.