This blog originally appeared on the myHRcounsel website. It is reprinted with permission.
While the COVID pandemic created a great deal of hardship for employers, one of the perceived benefits of the shutdown was the ability for employers to review employee’s I-9 documentation remotely. In recognition of the widespread move to remote work environments, USCIS allowed employers to remotely examine an individual’s work authorization documents through Zoom or some other video link. As with many of the protections provided during the pandemic, this ability expired and employers were required to go back and re-examine documents that had been submitted virtually. Here is a link to the USCIS website regarding the temporary examination of documents and the expiration of that ability: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/form-i-9-examples-related-to-temporary-covid-19-policies.
Many employers, who continue to hire remote workers or who have multiple locations with limited human resources staff, wanted to be able to continue the flexibility of remote document inspection via video links. Prior to the COVID relaxation of the in person inspection requirements, these employers were required to use agents located where the employee was located to physically inspect documents on their behalf and to sign the I-9 form authenticating the documentation provided. Employers requested that USCIS find a way to continue the remote inspection of documents, rather than forcing them to return to the use of agents to complete the I-9 forms on their behalf.
USCIS has recently issued new regulations which would allow E-Verify users to continue to review I-9 documentation remotely. Here is a link to the web page that discusses this option: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/remote-examination-of-documents. Here is what USCIS says about this option:
If you participate in E-Verify in good standing, you are qualified to remotely examine your employee’s documentation using a DHS-authorized alternative procedure at your E-Verify hiring sites. If you choose to offer the alternative procedure to new employees at an E-Verify hiring site, you must do so consistently for all employees at that site. However, you may choose to offer the alternative procedure for remote hires only but continue to apply physical examination procedures to all employees who work onsite or in a hybrid capacity, so long as you do not adopt such a practice for a discriminatory purpose or treat employees differently based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin, such as by deciding that certain employees are not eligible for remote examination of their documentation.
This is good news for employers who have been asking for this option.
MyHRcounsel can assist you in developing policies and procedures regarding the adoption of E-Verify and the remote inspection of work authorization documents. We can also assist you in determining whether a document provided by a prospective employee meets the requirements to allow the employee to work in the United States.