Since the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the federal government has had mandates in place to help with verifying identification and employment authorization, but it leaves many employers wondering how a modern workforce can comply with I-9 rules developed in the 1980s, almost thirty-six years ago when the new norm consists largely of a remote and/or “Gig” work labor market and high turnover.
With the rate that our world, technology, and laws are changing, the best way to stay on top of any modifications and changes to a three-decade old law is to utilize resources such as digital I-9 compliance software that incorporates key updates so employers can have more peace of mind.
Timeless Stability in the Form I-9
While the terms of compliance may be subject to flexibility in unprecedented circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, many remain steadfastly the same.
In the years since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the basic setup of the Form I-9 has remained largely unchanged. The form consists of three primary sections each with their own regulations and guidelines:
- Section 1: The employee is responsible for completing this first section of the form with their personal information including their full name, day of birth, social security number, and contact information. This section is also designed to assist in confirming an individual’s eligibility to work legally in the United States by proving their citizenship, lawful permanent residency, status of nonresident national of the U.S., or authorization as an alien to work in the U.S. Section 1 should be completed no later than the individual’s first day of employment.
- Section 2: The employer agent completes this section of the Form I-9 and this generally falls to the employer’s on-boarding specialist in human resources or recruiting who may or may not fully appreciate or understand the I-9 rule. While employees are required to present approved documents from either List A, List B, or List C as appropriate, employers are tasked with examining for authenticity the original document for each allowable identity and work authorization document they are presented. Section 2 must be completed within three business days of an individual’s first day of employment.
- Section 3: This final section comes into play for employees that have either reported a name change to their employer, have an expiring work authorization where an employee has to show a revised r work authorization document which replaces their expired work authorization document previously provided, or for an employee who is a rehire and the previously completed I-9 is retained to comply with the I-9 regulations (being three years post the prior hire date listed on their Form I-9 or one year post the termination date, specifically retention is required until the later of the two dates).
This has given employers a sense of continuity in knowing what to expect when it comes to the outline of actions related to the form.
Modern Temporary Modifications Affecting Form I-9 Compliance
In response, in March of 2020 the Department of Homeland Security and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced flexibility for Form I-9 requirements dealing with the Form I-9 process for employees working only in a remote setting. A “remote setting” is defined as a situation where the employee population is working from home 100% and there are no employees commuting into the employer’s worksite location. At the time of print, this flexibility is currently set to expire as of April 30, 2022 without a known extension. Employers must know when a rule or flexibility to a rule goes into effect and when it expires to maintain compliance. Employers making a shift to return their workforce back to the office after closure should discuss plans with immigration counsel and make plans to meet with staff to review original documents immediately upon their return.
It is important to reflect on the point that the remote hire accommodations was only intended to be temporary to the extent that an employer’s workplace is entirely remote due to the employer’s COVID-19 response policy. For the duration whereby the offices are closed to all employees, employers can review an employee’s I-9 documents remotely (e.g., over video link/call, fax, or email). The remote examination must still take place within 3 business days of the first paid workday. Later, when “normal” business operations resume and employees are working in the office again, each employee must physically show I-9 documentation to the employer within three business days.
Digital I-9 Software – A Resource for Managing Compliance Today
Intuitive digital I-9 software has “intelligent” features designed to guide employers more seamlessly through the Form I-9 process, helping prevent compliance errors occurring during the completion, tracking and revision process. While the software is generally capable of alerting employers of blank or incomplete fields, missing signatures, soon to be expired work authorization documents, and more, it may also be customized with pertinent updates to ensure that employers have access to the most current rules and regulations.
This is an invaluable resource for employers who are navigating I-9 rules developed in the 1980s with modern day changes. While the software should not replace the need for an employer to stay on top of current legislation regarding federal hiring practices, it can be a useful supplemental tool.
Employers cannot escape their responsibilities for being compliant with federal Form I-9 compliance guidelines, but they need not shoulder that burden alone. With the help of digital I-9 software, it is possible to have more peace of mind about the process even when temporary changes in procedure occur.
Do not leave compliance up to guesswork. Strengthen your current efforts with that of digital I-9 compliance software through a trusted expert today.