The COVID-19 National Emergency has brought a host of challenges to employers in the United States, including travel, compliance with employment verification processes, and hiring and maintaining immigration status for foreign national employees.
In the past two weeks, we have seen a flood of interim policy changes. We expect the various immigration and enforcement agencies will continue to adapt and provide further guidance.
Form I-9 Compliance for Employers with No On-Site Employees
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced flexibility for verification of identification and employment authorization documents for the completion of Form I-9. DHS has provided remote verification procedures to allow an employer with no employees on-site due to the COVID-19 National Emergency, to review Section 2 documents using virtual review methods such as video conference, fax or email. The remote verification policy is in effect for the next 60 days.
ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has provided a 60-day document production extension for any employer issued a Notice of Inspection (NOI) for Form I-9s during the month of March 2020. ICE will determine if additional extensions are warranted at the end of the 60 day period.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended in-person services at USCIS Service Centers around the country until at least April 1. This suspension includes final interviews for permanent residency and naturalization. Applicants with interview notices during this time will be automatically rescheduled. Those with InfoPass appointments or other appointments at a field office must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center.
USCIS has suspended premium processing service for I-129 and I-140 petitions filed directly with USCIS until further notice. Form I-129 is utilized for employment-based non-immigrant petitions, including, but not limited to, the H-1B, L-1A/B, E-1, E-2, O-1, and TN statuses. Form I-140 is utilized for employment-based permanent residency applications. USCIS will continue to accept and process all applications in accordance with regular processing guidelines, including filings for those selected in the FY 2021 H-1B lottery, expected to occur before April 1, 2020.
USCIS will temporarily accept copies of original signatures. USCIS has provided employers and their legal counsel much needed relief, by accepting reproduced copies of original signatures for filing of benefits forms with USCIS, including Form I-129. For forms that require an original signature, USCIS will accept the reproduced original for the duration of the COVID-19 National Emergency. Originals of the forms must be retained and provided to USCIS at a later date if requested.
By Sarah J. Hawk and Terra R. Martin for THE NATIONAL LAW REVIEW
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