Employers seeking to continue business operations while also abiding by CDC guidance and other health and safety directives to curb COVID-19 exposure have been struggling with how to adhere to the in-person document review requirements for completing a new hire’s Form I-9.

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that, in limited circumstances, it will temporarily suspend the Form I-9 physical presence requirements for employers who are implementing remote working arrangements due to COVID-19.

The suspension will last for 60 days after the notice (that is May 19, 2020), or until 3 business days after the termination of a National Emergency designation, whichever comes first.

During this period, employers may review a new hire’s identity and employment authorization documents via video chat, email or other electronic means, so long as the review is completed within 3 business days from the start date.

Notably, this modification does not alleviate the requirement to review documents in-person once normal operations resume.  For the time being, employers should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for delay in the “Additional Information” field of Section 2.  Once the documents are physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” and the date of inspection to this field.

DHS requires any employer conducting remote Form I-9 verification to provide each new hire with written documentation detailing the company’s remote onboarding and telework policies.  Employers who do not have these policies will need to prepare them ahead of onboarding.

This modification applies only to employers and workplaces operating remotely.  No exception will be granted where there are employees physically present at the work location.  However, if the new hire is subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, DHS will evaluate extending this exception on a case-by-case basis.

Employers should monitor the DHS and ICE websites for additional updates.