U.S. Department of Homeland Security Relaxes I-9 Requirements

March 20, 2020 | Henry M. Mascia | Employment & Labor | Immigration

In response to the current public health crisis, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that it will allow certain employers to defer the physical presence requirements associated with Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9).

Under ordinary circumstances, employers must physically inspect the documents produced by employees to establish their identity and authorization to work. For more information, see this article. But due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resultant quarantines by state and local governments, DHS has advised that employers can review an employee’s identity and employment authorization documents electronically and write “COVID-19” as the reason for the delay in physical inspection. Employers who avail themselves of this procedure should document their decision with evidence of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee.

Once normal operations resume, the employer should once again physically inspect the identity and work authorization documents.

DHS also advised that these flexible inspection procedures are available to employers for a period of 60 days from today OR within three business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first. Further, the modified procedure applies only to those employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9.

The full announcement from DHS can be found here.  But employers who are hiring employees to work remotely during the National Emergency should contact employment immigration counsel to develop the appropriate strategy for documenting the modified procedures and craft a legal compliance strategy that fits each employer’s individual situation.

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