The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking input from the public regarding remote document examination practices for the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 conducted temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a notice posted in the Federal Register on October 26, 2021.

The DHS is soliciting comments from the public for the notice to better understand the experiences of employers and employees with remote document examination, to examine the impacts of remote document examination, and to understand the potential costs and benefits of allowing for future remote document examination.

The 60-day comment period for the Federal Register notice titled “Remote Document Examination for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification” ends on December 27, 2021. Members of the public may submit comments, identified by docket number USCIS-2021-0022, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov.

On March 20, 2020, due to precautions implemented by employers and employees associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the DHS announced it would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the physical presence requirements of the Form I-9 under Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The DHS permitted employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 to examine their identity and employment eligibility documents remotely – such as over video link, fax, or email – until after the pandemic was over when employers would have to obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents.

The policy was implemented for 60 days and set to expire on May 19, 2020. The DHS extended it for 30 days four times to June 19, 2020, July 19, 2020, August 19, 2020, and September 19, 2020, then to November 19, 2020, December 31, 2020, January 31, 2021, March 31, 2021, May 31, 2021, August 31, 2021, and December 31, 2021.

The DHS policy only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) requires employers in the United States to complete the Form I-9 for all newly-hired employees to verify their identity and their employment authorization to work in the country. Both employers and employees must complete the form that is available at www.uscis.gov/i-9.