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Although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently relaxed I-9 requirements for employers operating remotely as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, employers are still left with some questions on how to meet their obligations in this uncertain time.
Under federal guidance, employers are temporarily no longer be required to review an employee’s identity and work authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. Instead, inspection of these documents can be conducted remotely (e.g., by video, fax, or email).
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), “if employers are performing inspections remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) they must obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the Section 2 documents within three business day of hire. In addition to completing Section 2, Employers also should enter ‘COVID-19’ in the Additional Information field.”
Then, when “normal operations resume,” all employees whose documents were presented via remote verification must, within three business days, undergo the required “in-person” examination of documents. The person conducting the physical examination should write the words “documents physically examined” in the Additional Information box in Section 2, and should include their name and the date of inspection.
It is important to keep in mind that the DHS’s relaxed requirements apply only to employers who are operating remotely. According to the guidance, if there are employees physically present at a work location, then you must follow the normal in-person physical inspection rules. However, if newly hired employees or existing employees of an employer who still has employees present at a work location are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, “DHS will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis.”
While employers appreciate the DHS’s temporary relaxation of the in-person document inspection rules, some questions are not addressed by either DHS or USCIS. Here are the most common questions we have seen and the best practices to follow.
On Jan. 31, 2020, USCIS published the Form I-9 Federal Register notice announcing a new version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, that the Office of Management and Budget approved on Oct. 21, 2019. This new version contains minor changes to the form and its instructions. Employers should begin using this updated form as of Jan. 31, 2020.
The notice provides employers additional time to make necessary updates and adjust their business processes. Employers may continue using the prior version of the form (Rev. 07/17/2017 N) until April 30, 2020. After that date, they can only use the new form with the 10/21/2019 version date. The version date is located in the lower left corner of the form.
USCIS made the following changes to the form and its instructions:
Revised the Country of Issuance field in Section 1 and the Issuing Authority field (when selecting a foreign passport) in Section 2 to add Eswatini and Macedonia, North per those countries’ recent name changes. (Note: This change is only visible when completing the fillable Form I-9 on a computer.)
A revised Spanish version of Form I-9 with a version date of 10/21/2019 is available for use in Puerto Rico only.
Employers that participate in E-Verify, the government’s electronic employment eligibility verification program, have until Feb. 11 to create and enter cases into the system for all hires made during the 35-day partial government shutdown.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which manages the program, announced that E-Verify has resumed operations, but patience will be required from users as the service is restored.
“Expect delays due to the sheer volume of past E-Verify cases that need to be created, in addition to the fact that employers continue to hire every day and that adds to the queue of cases being created,” said Montserrat Miller, a partner in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory. “Employers, you only have a little over two weeks to bring yourself into compliance with the E-Verify requirements given the Feb. 11, 2019 deadline.”
Miller reminded HR professionals that “a case needs to be created for all employees you hired for whom a Form I-9 was completed but you could not create a case in E-Verify because the system was offline due to the shutdown.”
USCIS instructed that employers use the hire date from the employee’s Form I-9 when creating an E-Verify case. If the case creation date is more than three days following the worker’s start date, select “Other” from the drop-down list asking for an explanation and enter “E-Verify Not Available” as the reason.
“Any pending tentative nonconfirmation (TNC) that you and/or your newly hired employee were not able to resolve due to the shutdown needs to be resolved at this time,” Miller said.
If an employee has received a TNC and notified HR of his or her intention to contest it by Feb. 11, employers must add 10 federal business days to the date on the worker’s “Referral Date Confirmation” notice. That’s the date by which the employee must contact the Social Security Administration or Department of Homeland Security to begin resolving the TNC.
Federal business days are Monday through Friday and do not include federal holidays.
There’s no need to add days to the referral date for TNC cases after E-Verify resumed operations. “If your employee decided to contest the TNC when E-Verify was unavailable, you should now refer the employee’s case and follow the TNC process,” Miller said.
Federal contractors should contact their contracting officer for more information about the impact of the government shutdown on their operations related to E-Verify.
The federal government’s electronic employment verification system will be unavailable this weekend due to system upgrades.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that E-Verify will be shut down from midnight March 23 to 8 a.m. March 26 Eastern Time. E-Verify users are encouraged to complete and close any open cases prior to the system shutdown.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration will not be able to assist employees with case resolution issues during the outage. myE-Verify, the system’s resource portal for workers, will also be unavailable.
“During the suspension, employers will not be able to access their E-Verify accounts and employees will be unable to resolve E-Verify tentative nonconfirmations,” said Michael H. Neifach, an attorney in the Wahington, D.C., regional office of Jackson Lewis. “The E-Verify outage does not change any Form I-9 requirements,” he added. “Form I-9s must be completed no later than three business days after employment.”
To minimize the shutdown’s impact, the agency stipulated:
USCIS is prepping for a move to an upgraded user interface later this month. Enhanced features are expected to include a streamlined process for creating and managing cases, modernized data-matching to reduce tentative nonconfirmations, and improved data integrity.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released an updated version of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The new Form I-9, dated 11/14/2016N, will become mandatory on Jan. 22, 2017, replacing the version dated 03/08/2013 N, which may continue to be used until Jan. 21, 2017.
The new Form I-9, which must be used for all newly hired employees and those who require the re-verification of their U.S. employment eligibility, contains a number of new features, including but not limited to:
1) Clarification of the “other names used” field in Section to request only “other last names used” and the numbering of immigration status categories in Section 1;
2) Additional details regarding the preparer/translator category, including the ability to select multiple preparers/translators;
3) A designated area to enter additional information that previously needed to be entered as a margin note, such as the auto-extension of an individual’s work-authorized status, where applicable;
4) A separate page (Page 3) for Section 3 of the Form I-9;
5) Additional prompts and electronic enhancements, such as drop-down lists and calendars, to facilitate the proper entry of required information.
The current version of the Form I-9, the most fundamental tool used to determine if applicants are eligible to work in the U.S., expired on March 31. Until further notice, though, employers should keep using the expired form until the recently proposed “smart” I-9 is in effect, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Dave Basham, a senior analyst in the verification division at USCIS, has been answering the following question a lot recently: “What will happen on March 31, 2016, when the Form I-9 expires?” Basham says: “Employers should continue to use the current version of the form as it continues to be effective even after the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] control number expiration date March 31, 2016, has passed.”
On March 28, 2016, USCIS published a second round of proposed changes to the form in the Federal Register, giving the public 30 days to comment. Once the comment period ends April 27 and comments are considered, USCIS may make further changes before sending the proposal to OMB, which will need to review and approve it. The form will be available for download at www.uscis.gov upon being approved.
“Employers must continue to use the current version of Form I-9 until the proposed version is approved and posted on the USCIS website,” said Amy Peck, an immigration attorney in the Omaha, Neb., office of Jackson Lewis.
The proposed, revised form is designed to address frequent points of confusion that arise for both employees and employers.
The proposed changes specifically aim to help employers reduce technical errors for which they may be fined, and include:
The proposed changes will have far-reaching impact because all employers are required to complete and maintain the Form I-9 for each employee hired to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States.
The official revised Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 was released March 8, 2013 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Employers should begin using this new form immediately. The new Form I-9 will contain a revision date of 03/08/13 that is located on the bottom left-hand corner of the form.
Final Changes to the Form I-9
The revised Form I-9 makes several improvements designed to minimize completion errors. The key revisions to Form I-9 include:
60-Day Grace Period
Prior versions of the I-9 will no longer be accepted and should not be used after May 7, 2013. The agency is providing employers 60 days to make the necessary internal changes in their business processes to implement the new form.
The new I-9 form can be downloaded here.
A Spanish-language version of the new Form I-9 is available, however may only be filled out by employers and employees in Puerto Rico only.
Handbook for Employer
The M-274 Handbook for Employers is in the process of being updated as well. Employers are advised by USCIS to follow instructions on the new Form I-9 until the revised handbook has been updated.
Employers are required to maintain an I-9 for as long as an individual is employed and for the required retention period following their employment termination, which is the later of three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment ended.
Failure of an employer to ensure proper I-9 completion and retention may subject the employer to civil monetary penalties, and possibly even criminal penalties.
USCIS noted that employers do not need to complete the new Form I-9 for current employees for whom there is already a properly completed Form I-9 on file, unless reverification applies.