COVID-19 and Form I-9 Requirements

Our offices are closed due to COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place order. We hired an employee who will be working at home remotely until we are able to open the office back up again. How do we physically examine documents to complete the Form I-9?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided much-needed guidance on the issue of employees hired and working remotely in a March 20, 2020 announcement related to COVID-19 and the national emergency.

Deferral of Examination

Due to COVID-19, the employer’s physical examination of original documents in the presence of a new hire who will be working remotely at home has been deferred for 60 days or three days after the termination of the national emergency, whichever occurs first.

While the employee and the employer still must complete the Form I-9 within three business days of hire, the employee may submit documents to the employer that verify identity and work authorization remotely via a video link, fax or email.

If the employer is using this method when completing Section 2 of the Form I-9, the employer should insert “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the additional information space and retain copies of the documents submitted.

When Normalcy Resumes

Once normal operations resume, all employees who used remote verification must within three business days provide original documents for inspection to the employer. The employer must then examine the original documents in the employee’s presence and complete Section 3 of the Form I-9 by adding “documents physically examined” and the date in the additional information space.

These provisions apply only to employees who are operating remotely due to COVID-19. If employees are physically present at a work site, these provisions would not apply.

Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at

Staff Contact: Sunny Lee

The California Chamber of Commerce is the largest, broad-based business advocate to government in California, working at the state and federal levels to influence government actions affecting all California business. As a not-for-profit, we leverage our front-line knowledge of laws and regulations to provide affordable and easy-to-use compliance products and services.