August 14th, 2023 | Sterling
New Form I-9 And Modernized Alternative Verification Procedures Empower Employers
Since 1986, the Form I-9 has been mandated to validate identity and work authorization for new hires in the United States. While multiple versions of the I-9 form have been issued since it was first introduced, the basic process and underlying requirements of the in-person process have remained essentially consistent for decades, despite significant changes in both technology and the workplace.
The temporary remote document inspection flexibilities put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the fact that the Form I-9 employment verification process has long been overdue for modernization. There is a more pressing need to make the process more flexible for US employers to compliantly and easily onboard new employees, especially with newer post-Covid models of the workplace.
The highly anticipated shift to a long-term virtual I-9 document review option has finally arrived. With a revised Form I-9 and new options to choose from, employers now have the flexibility to redefine their processes for in-person and virtual document review.
New Alternative Verification Procedures
On July 25, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially published an announcement regarding the release of a revised Form I-9 (Form I-9 08/01/2023). At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a document describing and authorizing a new remote document inspection option. These alternative verification procedures allow eligible employers to take advantage of the DHS authorized remote I-9 document inspection as long as the employer:
- Is currently a participant in good standing with E-Verify
- Applies the alternative process consistently to their new employees
- Notates use of the alternative procedures to perform document review on the Form I-9
- Conducts or arranges a live virtual meeting with the employee for document review
- Retains clear and legible copies of all reviewed documents for audit purposes
- Creates an E-Verify case if the employee is a new hire
How Does This Announcement Change Employer Options?
The introduction of the new alternative verification procedures offers immediate benefit for employers enrolled and participating in E-Verify. USCIS has announced that the alternative procedures may be used for Form I-9 documents examined remotely during Covid-19 temporary flexibilities where an E-Verify case was created. For application in this specific situation, employers should familiarize themselves with this USCIS guidance. Note that a new E-Verify case should not be created when using alternative procedures for examining documents inspected using temporary flexibilities, as E-Verify cases should be created and managed when the employee is originally hired.
For E-Verify-enrolled employers still working to complete their physical inspections of Form I-9 documents previously reviewed using Covid temporary flexibilities, this provides a streamlined inspection option to help them meet the August 30, 2023 deadline. In addition, Sterling I-9 users can leverage the existing Covid physical inspection functions recently put in place to help facilitate timely document review:
- Edit Section 2 | This workflow provides access to Company-Selected and some Employee-Selected verifiers to allow manual input of documentation in the Additional Information section of the existing Form I-9. This option allows notation of alternative verification procedures on Sterling I-9.
- Inspect Docs | This option is available to Sterling I-9 dashboard users and simply auto-populates the Additional Information section of the existing Form I-9.
- COVID-Inspect I-9 | This enhancement allows individual and bulk orders of new Form I-9s for in-person physical inspection of supporting documents. A new Form I-9s pre-populates the date using the existing Form I-9 information and allows for physical inspection of the documents in Section 2. The related Form I-9s will be connected for tracking purposes. The COVID-Inspect I-9 tool can be used with any verifier option, including the Verifier and Notary Networks.
During August 2023, Sterling will be introducing an Alternative Verification Procedures option in our current Form I-9 process to make it even easier for qualified Sterling I-9 users to leverage this new document review option. Ticking the checkbox will automatically add the required annotation in the Additional Information section, helping facilitate compliant use of the remote inspection process.
Introduction of the New Form I-9
With the August 1, 2023 introduction of the new form (version Form I-9 08/01/2023), USCIS has simplified and shortened the required document, and added accommodation for the alternative verification procedures.
What has changed? Sections 1 and 2 are now condensed onto a single sheet. While there are no significant changes to data input fields required for Form I-9, multiple fields are merged and two sections of the previous form have been modified and are now available as supplements:
- Supplement A | Preparer/Translator Certification (previously on page 1)
- Supplement B | Reverification and Rehire (previously Section 3)
In addition, more nuanced changes include:
- Entering N/A in blank fields is no longer required.
- Improved guidance to the List of Acceptable Documents, including some acceptable receipts and links to additional information.
- An added checkbox for E-Verify employers to indicate when they have used Alternative Verification Procedures to remotely examine documents.
While employers may choose to use the new version of the Form I-9 now, its use is not mandated until November 1, 2023. Sterling I-9 users can expect to see the revised form in Sterling I-9 starting September 2023.
Beyond In-Person: A Sterling I-9 Virtual Document Review Option
Clients consistently request more efficient and user-friendly processes to simplify and streamline the Form I-9 completion mandate. DHS’s introduction of the alternate verification procedures opens the door for new, virtual I-9 document review solutions that deliver on these needs, especially for employers leveraging an online I-9 system.
Sterling currently supports multiple I-9 verification options to help employers meet in-person document review requirements:
- Employers can easily assign a company-designated representative to perform in-person document review with the employee.
- For remote document inspection, employers can delegate the in-person Section 2 task to an Employee Selected, Verifier Network, or Notary Network agent.
In response to DHS’s announcement, and as part of Sterling’s long-term efforts to streamline the Form I-9 completion process, Sterling is partnering with ID.me to introduce a new Virtual I-9 Document Review option for Sterling I-9 users. This new service will leverage ID.me’s I-9 Document Review Specialists to complete Form I-9 Section 2 on behalf of the employer in a secure virtual meeting with the new employee. Central to the design of this service option is the ability to deliver improved convenience and efficiency for employees using trained and skilled document review agents.
- With I-9 Document Review Specialists conveniently available 5 days a week, new hires can complete their Form I-9 when it’s most expedient for them.
- The Section 2 verification process can be completed remotely in just 5 to 10 minutes.
- ID.me I-9 Document Review Specialists are screened and expertly trained for document inspection and Section 2 completion.
- All reviewed I-9 documents are securely captured and retained along with all other I-9 documentation in the Sterling system and are easily accessible for audit purposes.
Building upon Sterling’s current options for Section 2 verification, this exclusive partnership with ID.me will provide a game-changing shift in the experience of the current cumbersome verification process.
A New Era for Form I-9 and E-Verify
In one quick chain of post-Covid events, USCIS and DHS have brought the Form I-9 process into the 21st century. Employers are empowered to choose virtual document inspection, provided they are willing to adopt E-Verify into their I-9 program. For online I-9 solutions like Sterling I-9, the long-awaited improvements allow us to deliver on our promise to innovate and create responsive, simplified options that deliver on employer needs. It is an exciting new I-9 era.
Considerations to Explore When Evaluating an Online I-9 Solution
- Clear guidance and step-by-step validation throughout the Form I-9 completion process
- Guidance for special scenarios requiring a translator or preparer, or for minor employees
- Timely reminders and task assignment notifications for both task owners and onboarding managers
- Virtual and in-person facilitated document review options to make Section 2 completion easy for nearly every hiring scenario
- Automated integration with E-Verify, including timely case creation and robust case management tools
- Reporting insights that allow for oversight and management of the entire Form I-9 process
- Detailed history and audit tracking at the field-by field level for validation of compliance with Form I-9 requirements
To learn more about Sterling’s upcoming release of the Virtual I-9 Document Review service, watch the recent Sterling Live episode.
For more information on the DHS alternative verification procedures and other Form I-9/E-Verify processes, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. Sterling offers end-to-end employment background identity, screening, and onboarding services to help companies protect their employees, customers, and community. Learn more about our Sterling I-9 service here.
Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.