US extends Employment Verification Programme for immigrants

US extends Employment Verification Programme for immigrants

Monday, November 30, 2020

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has announced an extension of the physical presence requirements associated with Employment Eligibility Verification for immigrants due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

ICE said that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will extend this policy until December 31, this year.

On March 19, due to precautions implemented by employers and employees associated with COVID-19, DHS said it would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification under the US Immigration and Nationality Act.

“This policy only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely,” said ICE in a statement. “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, Employment Eligibility Verification.

“Going forward DHS will continue to monitor the ongoing national emergency and provide updated guidance as needed,” added ICE, alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The immigration agency said that employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions, due to COVID-19, will not be required to review the employee's identity and employment authorisation documents in the employee's physical presence.

However, ICE said employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely – such as over video link, fax or email – and obtain, inspect and retain copies of the documents, within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2.

ICE said 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 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,” ICE said.

Once normal operations resume, ICE warns that all employees who were on boarded 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, Employment Eligibility Verification.

In March, New York Attorney General Letitia James had called on US Attorney General William Barr, as well as members of New York's immigration courts, to take action and stop the further spread of the coronavirus disease by immediately halting in-person immigration hearings for Caribbean and other nationals.

James wanted Barr and the immigration courts to move instead to telephonic hearings and electronic filings.

In a letter to Barr and immigration judges and court administrators across New York State, James cites the need for protecting practitioners and staff at the state's immigration courts after members of a number of organisations that provide free legal representation to indigent non-citizens, such as Caribbean nationals, at these courts, have reported COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to an individual with COVID-19.

“During this national public health emergency, it is incumbent upon us all to mitigate the spread of this novel virus,” said James in her letter.

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