ICE Ends Form I-9 Virtual Remote Exception & Gives Employers Until August 30 for In-Person Form I-9 Verification
As of May 2023, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has officially announced the end of Form I-9 virtual remote inspection. The flexibilities were originally issued to help employers navigate the challenges of conducting in-person inspections while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
According to the ICE announcement, employers have until August 30, 2023, a 30-day period, to comply with physical Form I-9 document inspection requirements after the temporary COVID I-9 flexibilities expire on July 31. Employers who have been relying on the temporary policy to perform remote I-9 inspections should ensure that all I-9’s completed using this exception policy, are physically inspected by August 30, or earlier, as required under the policy.
What were the temporary COVID-19 flexibilities?
The I-9 form is a critical component of the hiring process for employers in the United States. It is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all new hires, as required by federal law. Employers are required to fill out the I-9 form within three days of hiring a new employee, and to keep the completed form on file for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date of termination, whichever comes later.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE relaxed the requirement for employers to have operational status and instead focused on employees, allowing remote inspections for those working from home due to COVID-19. ICE introduced a temporary policy allowing for the virtual inspection of I-9 documents in March 2020.
In April 2021, ICE expanded the "in-person" exemption, giving companies flexibility as they phased back employees, so in-person inspections were not required for all new hires. ICE updated their instructions, replacing the phrase "once normal operations resume" with "until [the employee] undertakes non-remote employment on a regular, consistent, or predictable basis, or the extension of the flexibilities related to such requirements is terminated, whichever is earlier."
It's important to note that ICE's guidance never applied to permanent remote employees who were allowed to work from anywhere without returning to an in-person setting. However, many employers misinterpreted the applicability standards and allowed for remote inspections incorrectly. In this case, an authorized representative should update the I-9 with a physical inspection if an employee cannot appear at the worksite. If mistakes were made, companies must move forward and remediate as quickly and accurately as possible.
What Employers Need To Know:
Employers are now required to ensure that all I-9 forms are completed and maintained accurately, with no errors or omissions. Any mistakes or omissions must be corrected by the employer within 10 days of discovery. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in serious consequences, including financial penalties and legal liability.
How Clear I-9 Can Help:
As you review your I-9 forms and process, ongoing compliance should be top-of-mind. Clear I-9 offers a secure, easy-to-use platform for employers to create, manage, and store I-9 forms, ensuring that all required information is captured accurately and stored securely. Electronic I-9 systems also offer features such as automatic error-checking and alerts, helping employers to quickly identify and correct any errors or omissions.
Utilizing an electronic I-9 system like Clear I-9 can help employers to easily manage their I-9 forms, while also ensuring compliance with federal regulations. As the deadline for corrections approaches, now is the time for employers to take action to ensure their I-9 forms are accurate and compliant.