As the world continues to navigate the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and employees have adapted to various remote work arrangements. One significant change implemented during this time was the temporary flexibility provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the physical inspection of Form I-9 documents.
However, as announced on May 4, 2023, these flexibilities are soon ending, with a sunset date of July 31, 2023. In this blog post, we will explore the implications of this decision and guide employers and employees during this transition period.
The Official Sunset Date
With the official announcement by DHS and ICE, employers now know when the temporary Form I-9 flexibilities will expire. The sunset date for these flexibilities is July 31, 2023. After this date, employers must revert to the standard in-person verification process for all new hires and reverifications.
Verification of Virtually Verified Employees
In addition to announcing the sunset date, ICE has provided guidance on verifying employees who were virtually verified since March 2020.
Employers will have a 30-day grace period, ending on August 30, 2023, to complete an in-person verification for all employees who were virtually verified during the pandemic period. This grace period allows employers to ensure that all Form I-9 documents fully comply with pre-pandemic requirements.
The announcement by DHS and ICE also addresses some common misconceptions regarding the end of the flexibilities. One such misconception was the belief that the remote policy would extend beyond July 31, 2023. However, this announcement definitively states that the flexibilities will end on the specified date. Employers must be prepared to adjust their processes accordingly and plan for in-person verifications moving forward.
Another misconception was related to the timeline for updating Form I-9s after the termination of the flexibilities. Contrary to the speculation, employers will not have just three days to update I-9s after the expiration of the flexibilities. The 30-day grace period until August 30, 2023, allows employers sufficient time to complete the necessary in-person verifications and update any I-9 forms that require modification.
Preparing for the Transition
As the end of the Form I-9 flexibilities approaches, employers must prepare to transition back to in-person verifications. Here are some key steps to consider during this period:
Review all virtually verified employees: Take stock of all virtually verified employees during the pandemic period. Ensure that their I-9 forms are accurate and complete, and note which employees will require in-person verification.
Communicate with employees: Reach out to employees requiring in-person verification and inform them of the upcoming process. Provide clear instructions and guidance on what documents they must bring to complete the verification.
Update policies and procedures: Review and update your organization's policies and procedures related to Form I-9 compliance. Ensure your HR team and relevant personnel know the changes and have the necessary resources to complete the in-person verification process.
Schedule in-person verifications: Coordinate with employees to schedule in-person verification appointments. Consider offering flexible options to accommodate their schedules and minimize disruptions.
Train relevant personnel: Provide training to HR personnel and other staff involved in the verification process to ensure they are well-prepared to conduct in-person verifications or work with authorized representatives to ensure the forms are completed accurately and efficiently.
If you find in-person verifications are not an option for your business, contact us, and we can guide you through your options with our Form I-9 experts.