It was exciting news a few weeks ago when the World Health Organization declared the pandemic to be over. Okay, so that wasn’t the exact wording they used…I believe they actually said, “We don’t declare the start or end of a pandemic.” What they declared “over” is the global health emergency over COVID. And just a few days later, the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) expired, which will mean the end of some data collection and oversight. After three long and arduous years of re-learning how to conduct our lives and our businesses, we are slowly easing our way back to whatever passes for “normal” these days.
Along with many COVID restrictions being lifted, there are a number of COVID “relaxations” that are being tightened again, though, and we just wanted to make sure you knew about this one.
What Has Been…
The pandemic forced nearly every company and government agencies to make some changes or exceptions to their rules. This was one of them:
On March 20, 2020, in response to public health guidance and precautions related to COVID-19, DHS announced that it would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the physical presence requirements of the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) under Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This policy only applied to employers and workplaces that were operating remotely. If there were employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions to the in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9 were implemented at that time. From ICE website.
Basically, if someone is working remote-only, you were allowed to defer the physical examination required of Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9). You were not allowed to do so if employees were working on-site.
So far this rule has been extended upon every opportunity to do so, but those extensions have come to an end.
What Will Be…
The flexibility period is scheduled to end on July 31, 2023. If you have been taking advantage of the program, you will have until August 30, 2023 to do in-person employment document verification.
Hopefully you’ve kept a list of employees whose documents haven’t been inspected in-person. If not, now is a really good time to get moving on that task. Once you have that information put together, you need to figure out who is going to be the one to inspect the relevant documents.
Depending on the size of your company and the range of your remote employees, this may be a very easy or quite daunting task. If your employees are relatively close, you can assign a trusted employee to go out at do the job. If you are a larger company with a presence in more than one geographical area, you might assign regional authorized representatives to take care of it. In either case, it’s important to remember that employers are liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process. You will want to choose someone who can be very particular about detail and train them well on how the verification process has to be done.
Or you can choose to outsource the job to a law firm, a notary, or someone else that is legally able to offer this service. This is also a good method of dealing with the issue of the remote employees being scattered around the country.
In any case, the flexibility for I-9 verification is definitely coming to an end, so if you’ve been taking advantage of that COVID-era program, it’s time to get all your paperwork in order.