Organizational Wellness

Pandemic-Era Remote I-9 Verification Flexibilities End on July 31 — Here’s How to Prepare

Jul 27, 2023
Last Updated May 8, 2024

Covid-19 movement restrictions triggered a remote work tsunami. The previously fringe setup quickly became commonplace: Remote work accounted for half of paid hours worked between April 2020 and December 2020, according estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This transformed the onboarding of new employees, greatly complicating the ability of HR leaders to conduct in-person verification of identity and right-to-work compliance documents. 

To help employers deal with this seismic shift, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) introduced remote I-9 verification flexibilities that let employers to review documents digitally with certain limitations.

Now that the Covid-19 state of emergency is officially over, these pandemic-era remote I-9 flexibilities will end July 31, 2023. Here’s what to know about the imminent change, including what it means for your pandemic-era hires. 


What is an I-9 Form?

An I-9 form verifies an employee's identity and authorization to work in the United States. Some sections are addressed by the employee, such as personal identification information and documentation like a driver's license. Other portions are the responsibility of the employer. These parts of the form include verification they've examined and approved the new hire's documentation and ability to work in the U.S.

All U.S. employers must have an I-9 on file for each employee. Generally speaking, employers require new employees to complete the I-9 form before the first day of their job. At the latest, it’s filled out during the first day of onboarding.

Remote I-9 Verification During Covid-19

Before the pandemic, I-9 verification instructions stated "the employer or authorized representative must physically examine, in the employee's presence, the unexpired document(s)." 

As the U.S. transitioned to remote-first work to comply with temporary COVID-19 social distancing and health guidelines, the "physical examination" of the I-9 form and related documents became challenging for HR leaders onboarding new employees. 

In response, ICE announced on March 20, 2020 that employers could inspect personal identification information and documentation remotely via video chat, fax, email, etc. They had three business days to obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents for this remote examination. 

This change granted unprecedented flexibility in the regulations for I-9 forms for employers across the U.S. 

These I-9 alterations remained unchanged until President Biden announced the termination of the COVID-19 national emergency on May 11, 2023. Around this time, ICE also announced I-9 flexibilities will end on July 31, 2023. ICE further clarified that employers must complete in-person physical document inspections for employees whose documents were inspected remotely during the temporary flexibilities by August 30, 2023.

How the I-9 Change Impacts Employers and HR Leaders

What does the termination of I-9 flexibilities mean for employers and HR leaders today?

Whether your company is still fully remote, hybrid, or fully in-office, the pandemic-era I-9 flexibilities are going away. Any employees whose documentation was verified remotely will now need to be reviewed in person — but that doesn't mean you have to look at every single document yourself.

ICE recommends employers audit the documentation of employees hired on or after March 20, 2020 who have received a virtual or remote examination. The deadline to conduct the physical inspection of identity and employment eligibility documents is August 30, 2023. Instructions for updating I-9 forms verified remotely can be found on ICE's website. 

Many companies hired hundreds or thousands of employees using remote I-9 verification. If you are an HR leader facing a large backlog of I-9 forms that need updating — or your company wants to continue distributed talent acquisition — don't worry. You won't have to fly all your remote employees to your corporate office just to physically examine their driver's license or passport. 

ICE has long allowed an "authorized representative" to inspect I-9 forms, and many fully remote and hybrid companies use this option to onboard remote and hybrid employees today. An "authorized representative" can be anyone the employer designates to complete the employer's section of the I-9 form on their behalf. While restrictions and regulations vary by state, most companies work with notary public, personnel officers, foreman, or other agents or counsel. These representatives can help ensure your I-9 forms remain compliant as the temporary regulations flexibilities end.

A New Era for Remote Working

A smooth onboarding process is an important part of the remote employee experience. After all, workers who experienced a great onboarding process are three times more likely to stay with their organization.

Of course, remote employee retention extends well beyond I-9 verification. Keeping a distributed workforce engaged requires a holistic strategy that supports the whole employee. 

A wellness program is a valuable part of your benefits strategy. With the right resources in place, your co-workers and employees can feel more supported, inspired and healthy than ever before. There’s a reason 79% of HR leaders say a wellness program is important for employee retention

Speak with a Wellbeing Specialist today to start improving retention through wellbeing!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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