As more businesses hire remote employees, they are likely to run into one of the more perplexing Form I-9 compliance issues—how to verify a remote employee’s work authorization documents within the required three-day period.
How do you complete an I-9 form for a newly hired employee who lives hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from your nearest office or location and is unable to visit the hiring or human resources manager?
Employers who hire remote workers are not exempt from the requirements. They are expected to verify employment eligibility within three business days of the new hire’s start date by reviewing original documents in person with the employee and completing the Form I-9.
Due to employers’ inability to use video technology such as Skype during the verification process, completing the Form I-9 for remote workers presents challenges. Employers must complete the Form I-9 on behalf of these individuals through the use of a reputable agent or representative. In theory, this can be anyone, but some states, such as California, impose restrictions on who may complete the Form I-9, and best practices also require that the trusted agent or representative be someone other than the employee’s family member.
Remote hires must complete Section 1 of the form, and the employer’s agent or representative must complete Section 2 completely, including a tactile inspection of the employee’s documents. This eliminates the need to photocopy documents and send them to human resources for section 2 completion.
The difficulties associated with appointing an authorized representative include locating someone who is willing and understands what is being requested.
Frequently, guidance is given in these situations to have the remote employee notarize the Form I-9 with a local notary public. Often, this process does not go as planned because the notary public is unaware of their responsibilities or the proper procedure for completing the form.
Even if you hire someone to handle your I-9, you must ensure that it is completed correctly and on time to avoid potential penalties or fines.
To ensure remote I-9 compliance, experts recommended the following:
- Create a policy outlining the types of individuals who are permitted to act as an agent for your organization.
Employers can provide a list of the best possible candidates based on prior experience and any additional instructions or guidance that may be beneficial. Employers consider human resource professionals at nearby organizations, local librarians, attorneys, and accountants, as well as staff from state workforce agencies and notaries.
It is preferable to select someone who is already familiar with the Form I-9 process to ensure a smooth and timely verification process. Additionally, it’s critical to understand which states may prohibit notaries from completing the Form I-9 or impose additional requirements. California, for example, has indicated that you must be bonded as an immigration consultant in order to complete an I-9 form.
- Give clear instructions on how to complete the form.
It is critical for notaries to understand that they are not notarizing Form I-9. They should not stamp the form with a notary seal. He or she is simply entrusted to review the forms of identification, complete the form, and attest that the information provided is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge.
HR should contact the notary and have a conversation to allay any concerns, particularly if the individual has never worked with the form or is unsure of the request. The notary public may be unfamiliar with the form’s requirements.
Employers must provide clear direction on what you want to be reviewed and what information you want them to complete in order to avoid errors.
Sending a standardized letter with instructions to both the new employee and the agent who will complete the form is a good practice. The letter should summarise the process, including detailed instructions, and emphasize the critical nature of completing the I-9 within the specified time frame. Employers frequently instruct the agent to quickly review Section 1 to ensure the information is accurate, request original documents from the list of acceptable documents, and meticulously complete all required information in Section 2.
Additionally, the instructions could include frequently asked questions, a sample of a completed form, and instructions for promptly returning the form to the company.
- Conduct a review of all I-9s completed remotely.
Employers should establish a process for reviewing all I-9s completed remotely. Ascertain that all information is entered correctly and that there are no other issues that might attract an auditor’s attention.
Among the more common errors to look for are the following:
- Acceptance of incorrect documents.
- Information on a document that is missing or has been transposed.
- Failure to retain photocopies when the organization or E-Verify requires it.
Employers who use E-Verify face additional challenges. Employers must be aware of the three-day E-Verify deadline, which is identical to the I-9 requirement. Given the short deadline, you’ll need to complete the I-9 quickly enough to allow enough time to review and submit the information to E-Verify before the deadline expires.