Understanding the New Form I-9 - what to know before weighing in on virtual document inspection
Understanding the New Form I-9 - what to know before weighing in on virtual document inspection

The New Form I-9: Making Your Voice Heard on Virtual Document Inspection

Vivian Susko |

What to know before weighing in on the new Form I-9

On March 30, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a notice that concerns the new Form I-9 update and the Employment Eligibility Verification provision. In essence, they’ve asked the public to submit comments regarding the proposed new Form I-9— the one that unfortunately doesn’t include an addendum to make remote document inspection permanent post-pandemic. 

Comments are encouraged and will be accepted until May 31, 2022. We’d love to see everyone take advantage of the opportunity to visit the public forum and share your thoughts on the update, but first, let’s take a step back: What is the new Form I-9, and why is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asking for the public’s opinion on remote document inspection? 

Flashback to 2020: Temporary Form I-9 Rules for Document Inspection

We’ve talked before about how every employer is required to complete an I-9 Form to verify the identity and employment authorization of each U.S. employee. Well, amid the pandemic, USCIS made a few major, temporary changes to the rules of this form. First published in March, 2020, DHS announced relaxed rules for verifying Form I-9 Employment Eligibility, allowing employers to complete the identification process remotely. The temporary rule-change stated, 

“Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.”

Typically, Section 2 requires an employer to verify a USCIS-approved form of ID in person, no later than the third business day after the employee begins work for pay. With the temporary Form I-9 identification rules, employees can now virtually inspect documents, allowing them to comply with social distancing regulations and streamline the onboarding process. 

But there’s a catch:

Barring an extension, the temporary rule is set to expire on April 30, 2022. Employers will have three business days to physically inspect all employee work authorization documents that were inspected virtually and update the Form I-9.

Knowing that this transition could significantly impact business operations, costs, and employee schedules, we encourage businesses to answer the Federal Register’s call for opinions on their new Form I-9 proposal— the one that doesn’t include remote employee verification as a permanent feature. 

Share your thoughts with USCIS

Comments are encouraged and will be accepted for 60 days, until May 31, 2022.

What can you expect from the New Form I-9 Forum?

It’s tough to say for sure what we can expect from USCIS on this matter, but we can look to past examples for insight. The last few times USCIS has opened a public comment period for a new version of the Form I-9, no permanent updates were inspired by public input, leading us to believe that virtual document identification could truly end up being a temporary luxury. Just in case, HR teams should prepare for this — it’s time to consolidate systems, collect the necessary data, and ensure you have all the necessary tools to guarantee compliance, now and in the future.