As part of its commitment to enhancing efficiency and security in the employment eligibility verification process, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (US ICE) has recently introduced an optional alternative procedure to the physical document examination associated with Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. This new procedure offers employers an alternative approach to assess identity and employment authorization while maintaining an equivalent level of security.
In this blog, we will explore the background, purpose, and core components of this alternative procedure.
• Final Rule
This alternative procedure is an accompaniment to a final rule (Optional Alternatives to the Physical Document Examination Associated with Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The rule grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to authorize alternative documentation examination procedures as part of a pilot program or in response to a public health or national emergency. The objective is to allow employers flexibility in verifying employment eligibility while maintaining security measures.
• Form I-9 Physical Examination Requirements
Under current regulations, employers must physically examine the original documents presented by new employees within three business days of employment to verify identity and employment authorization. Physical examination provides certain security benefits, such as identifying holograms and microprinting on identification documents.
The alternative procedure allows qualified employers who are participants in good standing in E-Verify to forgo the physical document examination. Instead, they must follow additional steps to ensure an equivalent level of security. These steps include retaining clear and legible copies of all documents presented by employees, confirming identity and employment authorization through E-Verify, and completing the E-Verify tutorial on fraud awareness and anti-discrimination training.
• Employers Qualified to Use the Alternative Procedure
The alternative procedure is initially available to employers who are E-Verify participants in good standing. These employers must confirm newly hired employees’ identity and employment authorization using E-Verify. Employers must consistently apply the alternative procedure to all employees at an E-Verify hiring site. However, physical examination procedures can still be used for onsite or hybrid employees, provided no discriminatory intent exists.
• Document Retention
Qualified employers using the alternative procedure must retain clear and legible copies of all documents presented by employees for Form I-9 purposes. This enables DHS to assess the records in case of an audit and ensures compliance with the law.
Employers and E-Verify users must undergo training that includes fraud awareness and anti-discrimination information. This ensures the alternative procedure is effectively implemented while preventing discrimination and identifying potential fraud indicators.
DHS has determined that the measures incorporated in the alternative procedure offer an equivalent level of security compared to physical document examination. Although data on fraud and error rates are currently limited, DHS will closely monitor the procedure’s impact and make adjustments if necessary.
The introduction of the alternative procedure for Form I-9 verification offers flexibility for employers, enabling remote examination of documentation for new employees. Qualified employers, especially those enrolled in E-Verify, should carefully consider adopting the procedure while ensuring adherence to guidelines and regulations. Staying informed about updates and potential audits is crucial. The procedure balances efficiency and security, streamlining the onboarding process while maintaining workforce integrity. Employers must review guidelines and seek professional advice to implement the alternative approach effectively, creating a positive experience for all stakeholders.