As expected, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced last week that the COVID-19 temporary flexibilities for Form I-9, which allowed for virtual inspections, will not be extended and will end on July 31.
Moreover, employers will be required to “re-inspect” in person the relevant I-9 documents for any employee whose documents were inspected remotely while the flexibilities were in place. The deadline for employers to complete these in-person inspections is August 30.
With a few iterations, employers have been allowed to conduct virtual inspections related to Section 2 of the I-9 form since March 2020. Section 2 consists of the review of an employee’s documents providing proof of identity and employment authorization, which must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment.
As we previously reported, the “remote presentation” policy initially applied only to employees of employers whose workplaces were exclusively remote because of COVID. However, in April 2021, the policy was expanded to cover employees who were working exclusively and alone in remote settings because of COVID, even if their co-workers were not.
In a remote presentation situation, the employer must inspect the Section 2 documents of a new hire via video link, fax, email, or other similar method.
In-person “make-up” inspection deadline is August 30!
Employers who elected to do virtual inspections must complete in-person physical document inspections for those employees by August 30. It is not too soon for employers to start conducting these “re-inspections” so that they are all completed by the August 30 deadline. Meeting the deadline may be a challenge for employers with many remote workers, particularly if the workers are spread around the country and continuing to work remotely. Some options include having the remote employees come to the home office or another physical location, or using an agent to conduct the inspection on the employer’s behalf at a location more convenient for the employee.
The May 5 DHS announcement provides a link with instructions on how to annotate the I-9 when performing these in-person physical document inspections. The following comes directly from the linked page, with minor edits for clarity:
If you performed both the remote inspection and the physical inspection, note that you physically examined the documents and the date, and then add your initials in the “Additional Information” field in Section 2. Do the same if you conducted both the remote inspection and physical inspection in connection with a reverification.
If you are performing only the physical inspection, note that you physically examined the documents and the date, and add your full name and title in the “Additional Information” field in Section 2. Do the same if you are conducting only the physical inspection in connection with a reverification.