Remote work has boomed over the past three years. Starting in March of 2020 and until at least July 31, 2023, the USCIS has allowed virtual, remote I-9 verification instead of the required in person verifications because of COVID. On August 18, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed the possibility of making virtual, remote verification permanent and has requested comments from the general public. Hopefully, this changes in the future, but it hasn’t yet and there will be no further extension because the federal emergency declaration has ended. That means we have to prepare for the in-person checks.
But what do companies do if they have created a dispersed workforce that spreads across wide geographies? Some companies make this an opportunity to fly the new employee to the home base and get some “quality” time and other onboarding and training in. Or it might be a good excuse fly out to the employee’s location and do the same.
If that is not a good option, companies can appoint an individual as an authorized representative to complete the process of I-9 verification including an agent or notary. However, choosing someone familiar with the form I-9 is advisable because employers remain liable for any violations or mistakes made by their representatives.
It is important that they double-check if there are any limitations. The state of California is an example – only licensed attorneys, individuals authorized under federal law to provide immigration services, and individuals qualified and bonded as immigration consultants may act as the representatives authorized for I-9 verification.
Additionally, DHS has said that companies should conduct in-person verifications and re-verifications for those hired or reverified on or after March 20, 2020 (when the flexibility allowing remote verification started) who were verified remotely. Therefore, companies will need to address this issue both for new hires but any hires they’ve made for the past 3 years. Companies have until August 30, 2023, to do these in person re-verifications. Here is a good, simple “to-do” list regarding this issue: https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/next-steps-for-employer-i-9-compliance-7286354/
Times and business practices have changed, but many rules and regulations have not changed as fast. If you have remote employees, start planning and maybe even acting now so August is a tiny bit less stressful. Or at least be sure to visit your employees in good summer vacation locations last!