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DHS Extends Guidance Relaxing I-9 Rules

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The Department of Homeland Security has announced another extension of its guidance increasing the flexibility of rules related to Form I-9 compliance due to COVID-19. Increased I-9 flexibility will now run through October 31, 2022. This marks the 13th time the DHS has extended the relaxed rules around Form I-9 since it issued the original guidance on March 20, 2020. 

Form I-9 

Employers in the U.S. are required by federal law to complete Form I-9 for every worker they hire. For an I-9 to be complete and in compliance, an employer must examine the employee’s documentation to ensure that it appears genuine and related to the person presenting it. 

Form I-9 Requirement Flexibility 

The main function of the increased Form I-9 flexibility was a loosening of the rules related to document verification. The guidance allows employers to postpone in-person document inspection and inspect documents remotely—via video link, fax, or email—so long as they note the remote inspection and re-examine the documents in person within three days of resuming normal operations. 
Because of the longevity of the extension, it’s possible for an employee to have been onboarded remotely and left the employer without ever having their documents inspected in person. In these cases, employers are able to memorialize the reason for the lack of an in-person examination in a memorandum kept with the employee’s Form I-9. 
The guidance originally only covered workplaces and employers that were working completely remote due to the pandemic. In April 2021, the guidance was expanded to better accommodate employers slowly returning to in-person operations by allowing them to inspect I-9 documentation remotely for out-of-office employees. The expansion wasn’t retroactive and only applied to employees onboarded after its implementation. 

History of Increased I-9 Flexibility

As mentioned, above the latest extension marks the 13th time the DHS has extended the guidance—something GoffWilson has covered extensively:

Increased I-9 Flexibility Going Forward 

It’s hard to speculate on the future of increased I-9 flexibility. On one hand, many offices are returning to in-person operations; on the other, COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc in many places across the world. And with the guidance having already been extended 13 times, it’s reasonable to assume it will once again be extended when the time comes. 
DHS and ICE encourage employers to monitor their websites for updates on when the extension of I-9 flexibility will be terminated and normal I-9 rules reinstated. 

GoffWilson Immigration Law 

GoffWilson is a trusted I-9 resource, having audited thousands of Form I-9s and 
assisted businesses of all sizes to remain in compliance throughout our 30+ years of practicing immigration law. We offer a host of I-9 services to employers ranging from comprehensive company audits to public training seminars
GoffWilson recommends that employers take a proactive approach to their I-9s and have a plan in place for when DHS ends increased I-9 flexibility. GoffWilson can help you form a strategy to remain I-9 compliant and offer solutions to both the short-term challenges facing employers, like the guidance increasing the flexibility around document inspection, and long-term issues, like incorrectly filling out form I-9. 
Contact GoffWilson today to learn how we can help ensure your business remains I-9 compliant. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion.
Filed under:Form I-9 Compliance