The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on May 26, 2021, that the Department of Homeland Security is again extending its temporary relaxation of the standards for physically inspecting a new worker’s employment eligibility documents when completing the Form I-9, and is adding flexibility for individual remote hires. This is the tenth extension of the relaxed standard, which will now expire on August 31, 2021. As we originally reported, the Department of Homeland Security relaxed the requirement for employers who are operating remotely and unable to physically inspect documents during the COVID-19 national emergency. During most of the time this exception has been in place, it didn’t apply if there were any employees physically present at a work location.
That changed on April 1, 2021 (as announced here) and is confirmed in the May 26, 2021, announcement. For employees hired on or after April 1, 2021, and who work exclusively in a remote setting due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) related precautions, they’re temporarily exempt from the Form I-9 physical inspection requirements until they resume non-remote employment on a regular, consistent, or predictable basis, or when the extension of Form I-9 flexibilities ends, whichever is earlier. The requirement for all employees to be working remotely in order for this exception to apply has been dropped.
Tips: The temporary relaxation doesn’t change your basic duty to complete the Form I-9 process within the usual time frame (generally no later than the third business day after a new hire begins working). However, if the remote work exception applies you may visually inspect documents that verify identity and employment eligibility via video link, fax, email, or other digital means. For new hires, write “COVID-19” in the “Additional Information” box in Section 2 on the form; for current employees whose documentation needs to be reverified, write “COVID-19” in the space along the side of Section 3 of the form. Within three business days of resuming in-person work, you'll need to physically inspect the actual documents and update the Form I-9 accordingly.