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Compliance Corner: I-9 Verification Flexibilities Ending Soon—What Businesses Need to Know

Friday June 9th, 2023

Estimated time to read: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

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The COVID-19 pandemic changed how many companies conducted business—and hired employees. At the onset, federal changes were made to add flexibility to the way companies verified an employee’s eligibility with their I-9. These changes are coming to an end on July 31st. isolved’s HR Business Partner Lisa Holman discusses the upcoming I-9 changes in this month’s Compliance Corner.

Why were I-9 verification standards changed in 2020?

On March 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced flexibility in complying with requirements related to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, due to COVID-19.

What did the changes include?

Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 were not required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. However, employers were to inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over a video link, fax, email, etc.) and obtain, inspect and retain copies of the documents within three business days for the purpose of completing Section 2.

Employers also needed to enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 “Additional Information” box once the physical inspection took place after normal operations resumed. Once the documents had been physically inspected, employers were to add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 “Additional Information” box on Form I-9, or to Section 3 as appropriate. 

When will the temporary flexibilities end?

COVID-19 temporary flexibilities of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification will end on July 31, 2023. Employers will have until August 30, 2023, to complete physical inspections for employees whose documents were inspected remotely during the temporary flexibility.

Who is impacted by the change?

All employers must complete in-person physical document inspections for those employees who were hired on or after March 20, 2020, and for whom the employer has, to date, only conducted a remote inspection consistent with the flexibilities first announced in March 2020.

The ending of the remote flexibilities policy also means that for any employee hired on or after August 1, 2023, employers must complete a physical inspection of the documents presented for the I-9 process, even if the company is hybrid or 100% remote.

What do companies do if the employee is no longer employed before the in-person physical document inspection?

If the employee separates before the physical inspection can be completed, include an explanation in the “Addition Information” box on page 2 of Form I-9 and the date of the employee’s separation.

What do companies need to do to ensure compliance?

Update Form I-9 for each affected employee by annotating the “Additional Information” box located in Section 2 of the form.

  • Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer’s authorized representative should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection in Section 2 “Additional Information” box, or to Section 3 as appropriate. The notation should indicate both when the remote inspection was completed and when the employee’s documents were physically inspected, as well as the initials of the employer’s authorized representative who completed the physical document inspection.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued FAQs providing examples of how to annotate the additional information on Form I-9 here.

Employers should resume physical inspection of I-9 documents as soon as possible, but no later than August 1, 2023.

What are the repercussions if companies do not comply?

Employers must comply with Form I-9 requirements to avoid any possible penalties—those that fail to comply may be subject to civil fines and criminal penalties.

How can companies successfully navigate these new requirements?

Don’t delay, start today!  Begin conducting the I-9 physical document inspections and annotation requirements now.

Starting August 1, 2023, employers are required to inspect physical documents for all employees regardless of their remote or hybrid work status. For fully remote employees, employers may take one of several approaches to complete physical verification. ICE has confirmed that anyone the employer designates may be an “authorized representative” for completing Section 2 and the physical document inspection. 

According to USCIS, there are suggestive options for an “authorized representative” to accomplish this task as referenced here.

Form I-9 compliance is critical. isolved HR Services can help guide you through this requirement.

About Lisa Holman:

Lisa Holman

Lisa serves as a Human Resources Business Partner on the Defined HR Services team for isolved. She brings just over 20 years of broad HR experience with supporting industries including professional services, healthcare, manufacturing and retail services. In Lisa’s current role, she works closely with clients offering HR business partner support and serving various consulting needs.