A Quick Fix to Avoid Problems with Virtual I-9 Verifications
There were so many details to consider in the early days of the pandemic. Many of us were operating quickly and without a rulebook to provide guidance. So when USCIS issued guidance permitting employers to complete I-9 forms virtually, we all jumped for joy and started scheduling Zoom verifications.
However, many employers understandably missed the fine print: virtual verifications were only a temporary measure and were never intended to be used for dispersed teams. In fact, their guidance mandates that all virtually verified Form I-9s must be reverified with live documents before July 31, 2023.
Avoiding problems with Form I-9 Verification
Even if your team intends to remain fully remote, your organization needs to take action before the deadline. Fortunately, it's a simple problem with a straightforward resolution. Here's what you need to do:
- Audit I-9s for team members who joined after Covid guidelines were issued in order to identify which documents require re-verification. DHS announced the temporary measures on March 20, 2020, so workers that joined after this date may have been verified virtually.
- Reach out to impacted individuals and schedule a time for in-person re-verification on the original I-9 and its supporting documentation. Utilize ‘Section 3’ on the original form completed at the time of hire.
The affected employees may need some time to gather the documents, especially if they’re non-U.S. citizens. Make sure that these employees understand that they either need one document from List A, which includes passports and green cards, OR one document from List B AND one item from List C. A full list of eligible documents is available on the USCIS website.
Pro tip: Is the individual working remotely and will never come to the office in person? Good news: there is no need to fly this person in or hire a notary.
Any non-family member over the age of 18 can serve as an ‘Authorized Representative’ on behalf of your organization. Baristas, poker buddies, pickleball partners, a passing neighbor out for a walk – all can be ‘Authorized Representatives’ on behalf of your organization! They are simply signing that they saw actual documents (as opposed to photocopies) and that they appeared to be legitimate to a reasonable person.
When do employers need to sign a Form I-9?
Form I-9 confirms that an employee is who they say they are AND that they are authorized to work in the United States. As an employer, you need one for each person on your team, regardless of their nationality or visa status.
Form I-9 has two sections. The employee completes Section 1, declaring their own eligibility for work. Employers complete Section 2 within three days of the start of employment. When completing Section 2, the employer must verify the employee’s identity by reviewing the live, actual, unexpired documents provided by the employee, such as a passport, driver’s license, or other forms of documentation.
What happened to Form I-9 during Covid?
Because employees weren’t traveling to the office during the early stages of the pandemic, it seemed impossible to safely verify acceptable documents, which meant that employers could not meet their requirements.
USCIS issued emergency guidelines that provided the exceptions employers needed to legally complete virtual verifications. The employee could hold up their chosen documentation to the camera, and if they seemed legitimate, the employer could sign the verification.
Additional tips to ensure squeaky-clean Form I-9 compliance
While you are working to reverify your I-9s it’s important to keep in mind the following:
- You can use Section 3 – Reverification on the original Form I-9 for any virtual verifications that need correcting.
- You can also opt to complete a new Form I-9 or make corrections on a blank page. It is strongly recommended that you retain the original to show that it was completed within three days of the initial hire.
- If you complete a new page, attach it to the original form, and include a memo documenting the reason for the correction.
- Never, ever attempt to edit an I-9 with white-out!
- If you do need to amend anything, cross out the old information, make the correction, and initial and date your changes.
- Employees (and their translators) should be the only ones making corrections to Section 1, and employers should be the only ones making corrections to Sections 2 and 3. If an employee forgot to check the translator box at the bottom of Section 1, they are the only ones who should make that correction and initial and date that the change was made.
You can follow your normal process for storing Form I-9 documents at this point. And don’t forget to retain the copies of IDs if you participate in eVerify or have elected to do so (which is recommended).
Get expert help with HR compliance
Form I-9 verification is one of those compliance headaches that can cause problems, even when you make a good-faith effort to follow the rules. It's a lot for a busy HR team to handle.
You can make things easier by calling in the experts. Helios HR's team has an in-depth knowledge of the latest local, state, and federal rules. We can help take the hard work out of compliance and deliver your HR strategy.
Want to talk more? Book a call with a Helios HR consultant today!