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Gunster's immigration law practice

As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic and national emergency, employers are increasingly requiring employees to work from home to limit the spread of the virus.

Due to precautions being implemented by employers and employees related to physical proximity associated with COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on March 20, 2020 that it will exercise discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) under Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.

However, employers conducting onboarding must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment for purposes of completing Section 2. Employers also should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 “Additional Information” field once physical inspection takes place after normal operations resume. Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification, must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 “Additional information” field on the Form I-9, or to Section 3 as appropriate. These provisions may be implemented by employers for a period of 60 days from the date of the March 20, 2020 notice OR within 3 business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first.

Employers who avail themselves of this option must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee. This burden rests solely with the employers.

Any audit of subsequent Forms I-9 would use the “in-person completed date” as a starting point for these employees only.

This provision only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9. However, if newly hired employees or existing employees are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, DHS will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, employers may designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to complete Section 2. An authorized representative can be any person the employer designates to complete and sign Form I-9 on their behalf. The employer is liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on the employer’s behalf.

Effective March 19, 2020, any employers who were served NOIs by DHS during the month of March 2020 and have not already responded will be granted an automatic extension for 60 days from the effective date. At the end of the 60-day extension period, DHS will determine if an additional extension will be granted.

For more information, please click here.

REMINDER REGARDING NEW I-9 FORM

Gunster’s Immigration attorneys also remind clients that they must use the new Form I-9 version (10/21/2019 edition date) starting no later than May 1, 2020. The new and most recent version is very similar, and the need to start using the new version could be easily overlooked during the COVID-19 outbreak period. For more information, please click here.

Gunster’s Immigration Practice continues to monitor these issues throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, and we are available to answer your questions.

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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

About Gunster

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 12 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With nearly 200 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at www.gunster.com.

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