How to Ensure Compliance When The I-9 Covid Policies Expire

What Is An I-9?

The Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired to work in the U.S. Federal law requires employers to only hire individuals who are legally permitted to work in the U.S.

To comply with these laws, employers must confirm the identity and employment authorization of each person hired. The Form I-9 is a record of this required verification process, which businesses must complete and retain for each employee.An employer or authorized representative “must physically examine, in the employee’s physical presence,” an employee’s documents, such as a passport or citizen ID card, per instructions from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) dating back to 2019.

I-9 During The Pandemic

As a result of many businesses implementing work-from-home policies during the pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security granted employers the ability to verify I-9 documents via video, fax, or email for employees hired from March 2020 to the present.

New Requirements

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that employers will have 30 days (until August 30) to come into compliance with Form I-9 requirements after the COVID-19 flexibilities sunset on July 31.

An employer must obtain, physically inspect, and retain copies of the employees’ documents and add “documents physically examined” along with the examination date to the Section 2 Additional Information field or in Section 3 of the I-9 form.

Penalties For Non-Compliance

Substantive and uncorrected technical violations associated with Form I-9 compliance can range from a minimum of $230 to as much as $1,948 per form for a first offense. Penalties increase with subsequent offenses. Other monetary penalties are steeper, including for “knowingly hiring and continuing to employ” violations.

Proposed Changes

Even as employers scramble to comply with the new (old) I-9 requirements by Aug. 30, there’s a strong possibility the federal government will introduce permanent virtual options within the next year.

Last year, DHS issued a proposed rule allowing employers to inspect I-9 forms remotely. Public comment on the proposal ended in October, and the government said it plans to issue a final rule later this year.