Even though the full-blown pandemic might be in the rearview mirror, some of the procedures put in place during the lockdown and social distancing mandates are sticking around. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have announced another extension for remote Form I-9 compliance. The policy, which was originally announced on March 19, 2020, was previously set to expire on April 30, 2022. According to ICE, through this new extension, the policy will remain in effect until October 31, 2022.
The remote Form I-9 policy gave employers some flexibility during the pandemic by deferring the physical presence requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification. The policy initially only applied to employers with workplaces where employees were all working remotely. It was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 1, 2021, the requirement that employers inspect employees’ Form I-9 identity and employment eligibility documentation in person applies only to those employees who physically report to work at a company location on any regular, consistent or predictable basis, according to ICE.
What does this mean for employers who plan on keeping their remote workforce? It means you need to have a good onboarding plan to make sure you remain compliant for ever-changing employee verification laws.
Onboarding Compliance for Your Remote Workforce
As the deadline for the updated Form I-9 requirements continues to get pushed back, many HR experts believe the changes should be permanent. According to HR Dive, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) called on ICE to permanently allow employers to remotely review employee documentation for Form I-9. The reasoning being prior to the changes, employers weren’t happy with how I-9 compliance procedures worked. A SHRM member survey found that 80% of employers find both Form I-9 and E-Verify burdensome to use.
If the changes are here to stay, employers need to know how to deal with them on a compliance level for the long term.
SHRM suggests restricting your I-9 review access to just one person or one group of people. Limiting the access ensures compliance in two ways: by preventing discrimination and making sure the reviewer can detect false documents. Centralizing the review process can also save time by limiting the amount of work your hiring managers have to do during onboarding. SHRM notes that using an authorized representation allows Form I-9 to be completed just one time, documents are verified just that one time, and there’s no need for the two-step mandate created by the virtual process, which requires a subsequent in-person verification.
Safe Document Storage
Once Form I-9 is completed correctly, it needs to be securely stored and easily accessed in case it’s needed to prove compliance. And relying on paper documents is a bad idea. Paper documents can be hard to read, can easily get lost and have to be stored, and accessed, from one site. For a remote workforce, using paper can really limit a company that has its employees work from various locations. A cloud-based onboarding system, like Arcoro’s onboarding software, can be assessed from any laptop, desktop or mobile device so onboarding remote employees can be done from anywhere.
Cloud-based systems are also much safer than keeping a paper trail. All documents are stored on a secure server for easy access and virtual audit reference. And, with systems like Arcoro’s, I-9 and E-Verify compliance is automated with easily accessed reports and records.
With today’s technology, companies aren’t limited to hiring employees in their city or region. Now the best person for the job can live anywhere. Arcoro’s modular HR management software is cloud-based and mobile-compatible so your remote workers, and your current employees who work from home at times, can access it from anywhere, 24/7.