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Complying With I-9 Rules After a Natural (or Man-Made) Disaster

The issue of I-9 compliance following a major disaster is not something employers typically contemplate, much less prepare for. The USCIS’ “I-9 Central” website states that employers whose Forms I-9 are missing and/or destroyed as a result of a natural disaster should complete new Forms I-9 to the extent reasonably possible for those employees and attach a memo stating the reason they were redone. Where the loss of I-9s is caused by circumstances beyond an employer’s control, it is likely that ICE would be willing to work with the employer. Planning for disasters is an integral step to mitigating risks. Practice tips for doing so include: safety must come first; return to normalcy; clearly inform employees; allow flexibility when needed; prepare a memo documenting the disaster; and notify ICE immediately. Employers who have already migrated their paper I-9s to an electronic software system may find that physical disasters do not affect their electronic records. A smart electronic I-9 vendor exceeds industry standards for data backup and retention and can easily provide employers with the vendor’s disaster recovery plan for review, upon request.

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