What Every Employer Needs to Know About Form I-9

What Every Employer Needs to Know About Form I-9

By Tricia O'Connor

Form I-9 orders were originally set to expire in May, then postponed to June, and are now set to expire July 18th. In each instance, the government extended the temporary guidance at the last minute.

The provision in question is the requirement to examine all new hires’ documents to determine if a person is legally allowed to work in the country. Federal law mandates this must be done in person, but this temporary guidance has allowed employers to review documents virtually.

So, what happens when those extensions are no longer granted?

We turned to EBI’s foremost Form I-9 expert for her guidance and best practices for businesses.

The Backstory

Courtney NelsonBack in March, right as stay-at-home orders were going into effect, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would allow some flexibility regarding the usually very inflexible Form I-9. As we originally explained here, it allowed businesses to inspect a new hire’s documents virtually over teleconferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Two extensions later, employers who are still operating remotely can continue using this method. We’ve been tracking this story for months in our Screening News Weekly Wrap. Click here for the latest segment.


But we’ve heard many businesses still have questions about how to proceed with Form I-9 in its current state, and what will happen to the backlog of paperwork they’ll need to process if the extension ends.


Courtney Nelson, Product Specialist at EBI, sat down with us to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.


EBI: How will another extension be granted, if it’s going to happen? 

Nelson: The government has been monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will issue updated guidance based on the current conditions.

EBI: How will employers be notified? 

Nelson: As with the extensions, the government will have an announcement when the extensions end and operations return to normal. Employers should monitor the DHS and ICE websites for this guidance. Click these links if you want to read the original and latest announcements from ICE. 

EBI: How much time will they have to review all the documents? 

Nelson: Employers will have three business days to physically review documents once normal operations resume. The ability to review documents remotely is helping in the short term, but it is also putting an enormous amount of pressure on human resources departments already stretched thin due to COVID-19.

EBI: How are they supposed to do this in a short time frame? 

Nelson: Employees are supposed to meet with their employer to physically review the documents once normal operations resume. EBI’s I-9 COVID-19 alert can be used to manage and complete – meaning, physically review the documents and have the appropriate verbiage added to the additional information field – the I-9s in an organized fashion. 

EBI: How can employers prepare for either decision? 

Nelson: Best practice is to monitor the DHS and ICE websites for updates. 

EBI: Should employers start now if they have moved away from working from home? Or do they need to wait until new guidance comes from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services? 

Nelson: I refer to USCIS when providing this answer: “This provision only applies to employers and workplaces 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.”

EBI: Will there be any grace period for those who have hired employees remotely? 

Nelson: The odds of a grace period are slim. It was monumental to have the flexibility for virtual viewings of documents; adding a grace period to it is unlikely.

EBI Can Help

Many employers are opting to utilize Authorized Representatives to complete Section 2. That means companies are either naming an authorized agent to meet their new hires and inspect their documents within three days of starting work, or they are using such a service offered by their background screening partner, like EBI. Either way, this prevents the unexpected stress of trying to complete old I-9s while struggling to get the business reopened.

If you have more Form I-9 questions, we encourage you to reach out to us. Feel free to email us, connect with us on our LinkedIn page, or speak with one of our experts. As always at EBI, our goal is to help you make informed hiring decisions to propel your business forward.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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