On March 20, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued special guidance regarding the physical presence requirements associated with Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9). The guidance indicates that when employees cannot present documents to their employer in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, documents may be presented remotely in electronic form.

Employers should complete Form I-9 Section 2 using the electronic documents, and should, as usual, complete Section 2 by the end of the 3rd day after the employee begins working. Once the employee returns to the employer’s physical premises, s/he must, within three days, present original documents in person. Upon presentation of the documents in person, DHS requires special notations in the Additional Information field in the I-9 to reflect that the initial verification was done electronically due to the unusual circumstances and the original documents were later reviewed in person. Specifically, employers should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 Additional Information field on the Form I-9, or to section 3 as appropriate.

This special DHS guidance will continue for 60 days or until the end of the National Emergency, whichever comes first. The employer will need to maintain documentation of its remote work policy during this period. Similar rules apply for re-verification of existing employees.

Please note, the special DHS guidance only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. DHS will also evaluate remote I-9 procedures for newly hired employees or existing employees who are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, on a case-by-case basis.

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