In response to the COVID-19 crisis, US authorities are announcing a number of significant changes that impact everyone who relies on immigration programs to operate businesses or to live and work in the United States. Companies and their sponsored employees should be aware of the following changes announced within the past week:


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UPDATE: Law360 posted a version of this article as Expert Analysis on March 31, 2020.

As employers throughout the United States increasingly move to remote work arrangements for employees, they are confronted with challenges in completing Form I-9.  An employer must inspect an employee’s original identity and employment authorization documents in the physical presence of the employee within 3 business days after employment begins.  For remote hires, and for reverification of current employees working remotely, government agencies have relaxed some I-9 requirements and companies are developing temporary procedures to ensure compliance during the COVID-19 crisis.


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As Forbes has reported, US Immigration & Customs Enforcement has begun visiting the work sites of foreign students with employment authorization based on STEM degrees and employment with E-Verify employers (commonly known as “STEM OPT”).  While authority to conduct such site visits was part of regulations issued more than 3 years ago, during the

This week, Tom Homan, acting Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced that he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative branch of ICE, to quadruple the number of worksite inspections.  Danielle Bennett, spokeswoman for the agency, confirmed this directive and added “ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy continues to address both employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and the workers themselves.”

What does this mean for U.S. employers? This means that employers should expect to see increased HSI visits during which HSI will conduct not only I-9 audits to ensure that employers are complying with established employment eligibility verification requirements, but also other investigations related to compliance with immigration and labor regulations.


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