By: Dawn M. Lurie
Seyfarth Synopsis: On April 25, ICE announced its 13th extension, this time for a six-month period (until October 31, 2022), of the I-9 compliance flexibility rules relating to Form I-9. There is no substantive change in this extension of the policy, allowing for the “in-person” exemption (of identity and work authorization document review), benefiting certain employees and offering flexibility for companies that are phasing back in employees. While we are confident that the government is considering a permanent virtual option, we continue to advise employers to work under the assumption that anyone initially verified using the virtual flexibility will be required to conduct an in-person update as employees return to the workplace, especially in cases where identity was not verified (i.e. those that used the fax/email option).
Lucky #13 – Extension of the COVID I-9 Flexibility
In a thirteenth extension, ending on Halloween 2022, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posted an unprecedented (it’s been a while since I said that word) six (6) month extension of the flexibilities in rules related to Form I-9 compliance, initially granted in March 2020. These flexibilities are now extended until October 31, 2022. The posting on the website is a bit confusing, as it just updates the December 2021 announcement, and includes an alert attached to the top of the page which indicates the new deadline.
ICE’s announcement affirms that employers who are taking COVID-19 related precautions and offering working in remote or hybrid environments, may continue inspecting I-9 documents virtually for newly hired employees as well as for reverification of work authorizations. See our prior blog for the guidance and discussion on its forward-facing application, noting that ICE will evaluate a company’s situation “on a case-by-case basis” should a company have used virtual without the workforce being 100% remote from March 20, 2020 to March 31, 2021. Given the confusion and lack of guidance surrounding the directive, we remain optimistic that the government will show leniency for early misunderstandings and misapplications of the original policy.