In a move that will require roofing contractors and other employers to review, and in many cases update, their I-9 Employment Eligibility Confirmation forms, the Dept. of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced recently its COVID-19 -related flexibilities for completing forms expires July 31. That means employers will then have 30 days to comply with all physical inspection requirements for employees who were hired remotely during the pandemic. 

On March 20, 2020 -- at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns -- the USCIS announced employers could verify the employment eligibility of new hires who would be working remotely by examining copies of their documents. Employers could confirm their identity and ability to work in the U.S. and defer the actual, physical inspection of the originals until the company’s normal operations resumed.  

This policy was extended on March 31, 2021, with the additional guidance that:

As of April 1, 2021, required that employers inspect employees’ Form I-9 identity and employment eligibility documentation in-person, but only to those employees who physically report to work at a company location on any regular, consistent, or predictable basis.

If employees hired on or after April 21, 2021, work exclusively in a remote setting due to COVID-19-related precautions, they are temporarily exempt from the physical inspection requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9).

Significantly, this did not apply to employees who would be working regularly at the employer’s normal business premises. Their employers have continually been required to conduct actual, physical inspections of their original documents.

This flexibility was renewed twice more, on April 25, 2022, and Oct. 11, 2022, with this second extending it until this July.

With President Biden signing legislation ending the national COVID emergency on April 10, 2023, Homeland Security has announced these I-9 flexibilities will not be extended and will instead expire on July 31, 2023.  After that, employers will have 30 days to comply with all physical inspection requirements.

This will now return the I-9 onboarding process to pre-COVID procedures in which employers must examine the original documents of their new hires, regardless of whether they will be working on-site or remotely.

In addition, employers have until Aug. 30, 2023, to review the original documents of those remote employees who were hired during the pandemic and update their I-9s by noting “documents physically examined” with the date they were reviewed in Section 2 of the I-9, or in Section 3, as appropriate for each specific employee.

Penalties for I-9 violations can be significant. Employers should make sure theirs have been properly completed and maintained.