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DHS May Make Form I-9 Flexibility a Fixture

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it is considering changes to the Form I-9 documentation examination procedures. As human resources teams know, the remote workplace that became common during the COVID-19 pandemic made an already complicated I-9 process a logistical nightmare. With the U.S. government’s declaration of a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced certain flexibilities in March 2020 that suspended the requirement of in-person review of I-9 documents when a company was operating remotely due to COVID-19. Those flexibilities have been extended numerous times and are currently set to expire Oct. 31, 2022.

While DHS says it is considering making these temporary flexibilities permanent, the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) published last month does not seek to do so. Instead, the NPRM seeks to validate the authority of the DHS secretary to enact flexibilities, offer alternative options, and/or implement a pilot program to evaluate existing and additional alternative I-9 procedures for some or all employers. DHS recognizes that more and more employers are utilizing telework and remote work for their employees and that requiring in-person review of I-9 documents is no longer consistent with work patterns of many businesses.

Some of the more notable possible changes to the I-9 process described in the NPRM include requiring employers to note on the Form I-9 which of the alternative procedures they used; requiring employers to retain copies of I-9 documents; requiring online training on fraudulent document and/or anti-discrimination training for employers who wish to utilize the alternative procedures; and limiting eligibility to use the alternative procedures to employers that utilize E-Verify, the government’s online employment verification system.

Comments to the NPRM are due on or before Oct. 17, 2022.

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