How to ensure Form I-9 Compliance for Remote Workers

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Hiring remote employees comes with the challenge of Form I-9 compliance issues, as employee’s work authorization documents have to be verified within the stipulated three-day period. Employers hiring remote workers have to verify eligibility status and comply with requirements by completing the Form I-9 within the first three working days of the new hire by checking the original documents in the presence of the employee. Over 70% of Form I-9s are found to contain errors that could lead to hefty fines and penalties in the event of an I-9 audit.

The basic steps of filling out the form I-9 remains unchanged for remote hiring

  • Complete Section 1 of the form within the first day of the new hire.
  • Section 2 has to be filled within 3 working days from the date of joining.
  • Section 2 needs to be inspected and signed by a Company representative.

According to USCIS guidelines, you may designate an authorized representative to fill out Forms I-9 on behalf of your company, including personnel officers, foremen, agents or notary public. The Department of Homeland Security does not require the authorized representative to have specific agreements or other documentation for Form I-9 purposes. If an authorized representative fills out Form I-9 on your behalf, you are still liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process.

When completing Form I-9, you or authorized representative must physically examine each document presented to determine if it reasonably appears to be genuine and relates to the employee presenting it. Reviewing or examining documents via webcam or Skype is not permissible.

If the authorized representative refuses to complete Form I-9 (including providing a signature) another authorized representative may be selected. If you hire a notary public, the notary public is acting as an authorized representative of you, not as a notary. The notary must perform the same required actions as an authorized representative. When acting as an authorized representative, the notary public should not provide a notary seal on Form I-9. Notaries experience in filling out government forms and inspecting documents makes them a reliable option, but they should be clearly instructed on their role and directed to act as authorized representative and not as a notary.

Experts suggest the below measures to ensure remote I-9 compliance

  • Set Standards for representatives who act as an Agent for the Organizations

It’s wise to have a resource who is familiar with the I-9 process to ensure hassle free verification process. Recommended people includes HR professionals, notary, attorneys, accountants or state workforce agency staff. Prior experience in reviewing Form I-9 and verification documents comes in handy.

  • Provide clear guidance, communicate & clarify

Provide a standardized letter with a road-map to both the new employee and the agent who will be completing the form. The letter should explain the complete procedure, have clear cut guidelines and communicate the importance of completing the I-9 in the stipulated time frame. The instructions could also include commonly asked questions, how to avoid frequently made mistakes, a sample of a completed form and instructions for returning the form back to the company on time. Agents should review the forms of identification, complete the form, and attest that to the best of their knowledge the information provided is true and accurate.

  • Review all remotely completed I-9s

Employers should establish a review process for all remotely completed I-9’s by inspecting documents received & ensuring retention of photocopies when required by the organization or E-Verify.

  • Submit the information to E-Verify

Some U.S. states have laws requiring employers to enroll and participate in E-Verify as a condition of business or employment licensing to confirm the employment eligibility of new hires. Here employers should submit the information to E-Verify within 3-days from the employee hire date. An SSA or DHS Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) results when the information entered in E-Verify does not match SSA records or data available to DHS. A TNC does not necessarily mean that the employee is not authorized to work in the United States. TNCs frequently occur based on a wrong document submitted, expiration date inaccuracies or incomplete name that was recorded on the I-9 form. Once a TNC occurs, employer needs to notify the remote employee and provide them with the required documentation. If the employee decides to contest the TNC, the employer has to refer the case to DHS or SSA through E-Verify. The employer will also give a Referral Date Confirmation, which provides the date by which employee must visit SSA or contact DHS which is within 8 federal government workdays to correct the TNC.

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