Post Covid Onboarding: I-9 Verification and Remote Work

Are you up-to-date on how you can verify your I-9s for employment eligibility verification? On May 4, 2023, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement regarding the end of Form I-9 verifications using the COVID-19 flexibilities. The COVID-19 verification flexibilities will end on July 31, 2023. However, in their statement, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is giving businesses an additional 30 days, until August 30, 2023, to become compliant.

Post Covid Onboarding I-9 Verification and Remote Work

Let’s look at how I-9 verifications are changing in relation to the last three years and what you can do to ensure you are compliant with help from Workforce Payhub Payroll and HR.

The Changing Landscape of Onboarding:

A good onboarding process can mean the difference between having that employee at your business for years versus only a few weeks or months. However, since 2020, hiring and onboarding has changed, and it continues to change as technology develops and workplaces adapt to remote and hybrid work models.

Before COVID-19, employers needed to physically inspect an employee’s identity and employment eligibility and run the appropriate background checks. Once COVID-19 struck, the I-9 and employment verification processes were relaxed. This meant employers could review those documents virtually to streamline hiring and onboarding new talent during those challenging times.

Unfortunately, the provisions that made it possible to remotely view and verify an employee’s documents end on July 31, and all employers must comply with the new I-9 verification processes by August 30. Of course, if your company is completely remote, you’ll have to find ways to legally verify all your employees’ documents by the deadline to remain compliant with all the applicable employment laws.

What Documents Have To Be Verified?

The I-9 form must be filled out whether the employee works remotely, in person, or a combination of the two. The employee must fill out the I-9 form and tell the employer if they are eligible to work in the US.

Next, the employee must present documents to the employer that verifies their identity and proves that they are authorized to work in the US. Those documents can be the individual's driver’s license, state-issued ID card, passport, permanent resident card, social security card, birth certificate, alien registration receipt, or an employment authorization card. They can also be the employee’s school ID card with a photograph, voter registration card, military ID card, native American tribal document, or Canadian driver’s license. It’s important for the employer to remain abreast of what documents can be used to verify a person’s identity and work eligibility.

Before COVID-19, employers were obligated to physically review the verifying documents with the employee present, or the employer could authorize someone else to provide this verification service, like a lawyer or notary public. Employers were not allowed to review copied documents via email or fax or officially review them via a webcam, image, or any similar method.

Once the flexibility provisions end, employers will once again have to verify the eligibility documents provided by employees personally. This applies to all new hires and all the employees that were verified virtually throughout the pandemic.

I-9 Verification in Remote Onboarding:

During COVID-19, verifying an employee’s eligibility to work and their identity remotely was necessary due to public health safety and social distancing. This led many companies to send their employees home to work, especially if they worked in administration or a technology field. The relaxed employment verification restrictions meant employers could check documents via a webcam, picture, fax, or other option that didn’t require in-person contact.

Identification and work authorization are important for all employers. This helps ensure that your company complies with all the appropriate immigration laws and that your business is not hiring people who are not legally authorized to work in the United States. It helps ensure that your potential employees are evaluated fairly and not discriminated against. It also helps ensure that you hire the individual you believe you are hiring and that they have all the qualifications and education necessary to perform the job.

Challenges of Remote I-9 Verification

To fill out the I-9 form, employees must fill out Section 1, and employers must fill out Section 2. The employee must fill out Section 1 no later than their first day of work. If the employee doesn’t bring all of their verification documents with them, they must bring them to be physically verified within three days of filling out Section 1. Once Section 1 is filled out and all the verification documents have been submitted, the employer has three days to review the documents and fill out Section 2.

With the alternative ways of verifying an employee’s documents coming to an end, employers may feel challenged when it comes to verifying the document of remote workers. After all, how do you physically inspect an employee’s documents if they live hundreds or thousands of miles from your corporate office? What if you no longer have a corporate office and your entire workforce is remote? Thankfully, there are some things you can do to have your I-9s verified.

Remote Solutions for I-9 Verification:

As an employer, you have various methods for verifying the identity of your employees and confirming that they are authorized to work in the United States. The first step is to have your employee complete Section 1 of the I-9 form, which can be conveniently accomplished from virtually anywhere using remote software. 

The next step is to have Section 2 of the form completed. Even after July 31st, employers will still have the option of engaging a lawyer or notary public to complete this section. Since lawyers and notary publics are widely available, it's simply a matter of finding one near your employee's residence and scheduling an appointment. 

Once the notary public has completed Section 2, the required paperwork can be mailed to your payroll and HR staff.

Compliance Considerations:

Moving forward, you’ll need to inspect and update all the I-9 forms from all the employees you hired using the relaxed COVID-19 protocols, and you will need to physically verify all of those employees’ documents. Once you perform this task, you must fill out the “other information” section on the I-9 form. 

In general, you’ll need to note COVID-19, that the documents were physically examined and the date those documents were physically examined, as well as the name of the person who physically examined the documents. ICE has examples that you can view to make sure that your I-9 Section 2s are filled out correctly with the appropriate notations.

Remote Onboarding Best Practices:

As an employer, you want to create a great onboarding process from the date your employee signs the offer letter to filling out the paperwork and training your employee for their new role. You can do this by:

  • Starting the onboarding process early via an onboarding portal that allows your employees to fill out and sign important documents.
  • Creating welcome videos and introduction videos.
  • Making sure your employee’s logins are set up for all the accounts they will need to access.
  • Helps them get started with their computer-based training.
  • Welcome them to the team and introduce them to their coworkers.
  • Check-in with your employee regularly to see how they’re doing and answer any questions.
  • Set your employee up with a mentor or coach.

In this post-COVID landscape, it’s important to remain flexible and adapt to the ever-changing onboarding practices. For many companies, this is going to mean choosing remote-friendly I-9 verification solutions so that you can attract and retain the best talent from across the country while remaining compliant with all the laws and regulations from the Department of Labor, ICE, and DHS.

The good news is that Workforce Payhub’s Payroll and HR solutions can help your company meet the new I-9 verification requirements and help you stay compliant for all your future hires. We can even help you navigate the challenges of onboarding your new hires, tracking time and labor, and managing your employee benefits.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you maintain I-9 compliance and streamline your payroll and HR.

Eric Jones
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