DHS Proposes Optional Alternative to the Physical Examination Associated with Form I-9

On June 7, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quietly sent a proposed rule to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to revise employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) regulations to allow the Secretary of DHS to authorize alternative document examination procedures in certain circumstances or with respect to certain employers. According to the proposal, future exercises of such authority may reduce burdens on employers and employees while maintaining the integrity of the employment verification process. Now OIRA must review it.

While we don’t know the exact content of the proposal, it appears to be what AILA’s Verification and Documentation Liaison Committee, of which I am a member, has been advocating for years – essentially permanent virtual verification of employees’ documentation. Thus, it would be similar to the temporary virtual verification rule implemented at the beginning of COVID-19 in March 2020. However, it is believed there will be conditions tied to such as shown by the wording – “in certain circumstances or with respect to certain employers.” What will the conditions be? Maybe E-Verify? Maybe mini-IMAGE? Time will tell. I’m optimistic that this new regulation could be a gamechanger in the world of I-9 compliance.

Another interesting question is whether the employers who have used the temporary COVID-19 rules allowing virtual verification in certain circumstances to be “grandfathered” in? If so, that would be a God send for so many employers. But is that being overly optimistic? Remember this is DHS, who historically hasn’t done employers lots of favors.

When could this happen? Typically, OIRA asks for 90 days for review a proposed rule.  Then, the general public and hopefully lots of AILA attorneys will likely get 60 days to comment once it is published. After that, DHS will have to review the comments and write the final rule. So don’t look for implementation of this rule in calendar year 2022.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.

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