Key Points about the new Form I-9 and COVID-19 verification process:
- Employers must use the new Form I-9 starting on May 1, 2020.
- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, eligible employers can verify an employee’s Form I-9 Section 2 documents digitally. Once operations return to normal, they must verify the documents in-person.
Last October, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) updated the electronic Form I-9. Employers didn’t need to use this updated version right away, but they will need to use it starting on May 1, 2020 to remain compliant. The Form I-9 verification process has also changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, eligible employers can verify Section 2 documents digitally.
Here’s what you should know about these changes and how they may affect your onboarding process:
New Form I-9
The Form I-9 is used to verify the identity of new hires and confirm that they’re authorized to work in the United States. Employers must complete the form for each individual they hire (both citizens and noncitizens).
There are two versions of the Form I-9: a paper version and an electronic version. The paper version has not changed since the form was last updated. The electronic version has changed – it was updated on October 21, 2019 (10/21/19). Starting on May 1, 2020, you must use the updated 10/21/19 version to remain compliant (if you use the electronic Form I-9).
Click here to view the updated electronic Form I-9, along with instructions and copies of the form in Spanish.
The new 10/21/19 Form I-9 doesn’t make any major changes to the previous version, but it does provide clarification and additional guidance.
Section 1 Changes
- The Country of Issuance field now lists additional countries. This field is used for individuals who hold an alien registration number, a Form I-94 admission number, or a foreign passport. There are now more options to choose from when completing this field electronically.
Section 2 Changes
- Clarification on who can be an authorized representative. The updated Form I-9 clarifies that anyone can be an authorized representative and complete Section 2. However, the employer is still responsible for any violations the authorized representative makes. Keep in mind that your state laws may limit who can act as an authorized representative.
- N/A no longer needed in unused List A, B, or C columns. When you review and verify documents, you no longer need to write “N/A” in all of the fields for each unused column. For example, if your new employee provides a passport (which is a List A document), you do not need to write “N/A” in all of the unused fields in the Lists B and C columns. Please note that electronic systems will still require “N/A” in the unused columns in order for the form to be properly submitted. SentricHR will automatically enter “N/A” into any List A, B, or C fields you don’t need.
- Clarification on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). An EAD (Form I-766) with a photograph counts as a List A document. It is not a List C document.
Temporary Electronic Verification Process
Under normal circumstances, employers (or authorized representatives) must physically verify an employee’s documents for Section 2 of the Form I-9. However, to reduce physical contact in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security announced that physical verification would not be necessary for organizations with fully remote workforces. Eligible employers can now electronically inspect, verify, and obtain copies of an employee’s documents.
This electronic verification process is temporary. As of now, it is only effective until May 19, 2020 or within 3 days of the COVID-19 national emergency being terminated, whichever comes first.
You may use the electronic verification process for Form I-9 only if your workforce is fully remote. If any of your workers are physically present at a work location, you cannot use this process and must complete the Form I-9 as usual.
What You Need to Do
If you’re eligible for the electronic verification process, you need to do the following to stay compliant:
- Give each employee written documentation of your remote onboarding and teleworking policies.
- Electronically obtain the new employee’s Section 2 documents within 3 business days of their start date. You can obtain these documents via video conference, email, fax, or another digital method.
- Enter “COVID-19” in Section 2’s Additional Information field as the reason for the physical inspection delay.
- Once normal operations resume, physically verify and obtain the necessary documents for any employee onboarded using electronic verification. You must do this within 3 business days of resuming normal operations.
- Enter “Documents physically examined” and the date you inspected them in Section 2’s Additional Information field.
If you aren’t eligible for electronic verification, an “authorized representative” can view the documents and fill out Section 2 for you. Under COVID-19 guidance, an employee’s family member can be an authorized representative. They can physically verify the documents without breaking social distance measures.
You have some freedom to decide who you’ll accept as an authorized representative. However, any mistakes or violations will be your responsibility. There are also some restrictions for authorized representatives depending on the state. In California, for example, only state-licensed public notaries or bonded immigration specialists can act as an authorized representative for an employer.
While we hope that business operations can return to normal soon, Form I-9 electronic verification may be necessary for some time. Even if you aren’t actively hiring right now, keep in mind that the new Form I-9 will have some differences when compared to the previous version.
SentricHR makes Form I-9 compliance and electronic verification as easy as possible. All of our systems will be updated with the new Form I-9 by May 1. This form will be fillable, meaning that employees will be able to complete the form itself directly on SentricHR. If you’re eligible for electronic verification, new hires can also easily attach digital copies of their Section 2 documents within our system. There’s no need to use another online platform, like video conference or email, that might not be as secure.
From our community to yours, we wish you continued health and safety.