Written by Rebecca Tipton, SHRM-SCP, BMSS HR Services

The I-9 form is one of the main cornerstones of compliance for onboarding so that employers can demonstrate their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States in compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act. While it is updated approximately every three years and, therefore, has gone through many changes since its original conception in 1986, the most recent iteration released on August 1st includes a rather large change for which many employers have been hoping; the allowance of remote verifications extending beyond the temporary flexibilities of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as should be expected, this new process comes with required steps to remain in compliance, and therefore, it is important to understand both of those requirements and how to complete the updated form in order to protect your company from unnecessary fines that can accumulate quickly with each I-9 form that is incorrectly completed.

There have always been two main parts to completing the I-9. First, the employee would complete Section 1 by filling in their personal information and citizenship status. Then the employer would fill out section 2 by physically inspecting the original copies of the employee’s provided identification. However, when the new final rule was announced allowing for DHS to identify new alternative methods to completing the I-9, the first alternative method was announced specifically for employers enrolled in E-Verify, which is fortunate for Alabama employers, who are mandated by the Beason Hammon Act to use E-Verify in conjunction with their I-9 process. The method prescribes the following steps to remain in compliance:

  • Obtain (and maintain) copies of the acceptable identification from the employee.
  • Host a live video session with the employee to inspect the documents (but only after receiving copies first).
  • Complete Section 2 by checking the provided box (in the Additional Information area) to indicate that the documents were inspected using an authorized alternative method.
  • Open a case in E-Verify to complete the verification.

It should be noted that since the hosted live video document inspection will involve sensitive information, it is strongly recommended that you ensure a secure video environment. For example, Zoom has the option to only permit users with an invite link or passcode to join the meeting, to only permit users admitted by the host from the “waiting room”, or to authenticate users before allowing them to join. You can also go into Zoom’s advanced options and select the option to only permit users from a specified country to further limit access from unauthorized users.

Of course, remote verifications were not the only changes. The form itself has experienced a decent makeover. First, the page content has changed, so any previous onboarding instructions pertaining to the form will likely need to be updated as the main form now only consists of two pages, with the first containing Section 1 for the employee to complete and Section 2 for the employer to complete and the second containing the list of acceptable documents to use as identification. Section 1 has also been modified to remove the section for the employee to check whether they completed the form themselves or had a preparer or translator complete it for them, which is a welcome change since making sure to complete that checkbox was a common error. Instead, there are now two supplements to the I-9 form, which are pages three and four if you download the full form here. Page three is for the employee to use if they do use a preparer or translator, and page four is for any needed re-verifications or if the applicable employee is rehired within three years of the original I-9 completion date. Last, but not least, is the addition of the checkbox in the Additional Information section found on page one to indicate whether an authorized alternative method of verification was used, such as the remote verification process identified in the previous paragraph.

Changes can often be positive, as these changes will likely be for employers with remote employees, but they can also be difficult to incorporate at times. While this new form is already available here and can be used immediately, employers should know that they do have time to adjust any documented processes or instructions as they are not required to start using the form until November 1, 2023. If you have any questions about these changes or any other employment compliance, BMSS HR Services is here to help. Please contact our office at (833) CPA-BMSS or visit our website for contact information.

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