The Why of an Electronic I-9

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On October 30, 2004, legislation was passed into law authorizing employers to retain Forms I-9 in electronic format, in addition to the current choices of paper, microfilm or microfiche. The legislation also authorizes attestations on the Form I-9 to be manifested by an electronic signature. While paper I-9 systems still have their place, many HR leaders have turned to automated systems amid growing audit activity and high-profile fines levied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

As of early November 2010, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had officially targeted more than 3,000 employers since announcing a strategy in April that focuses on the executives and managers involved in illegal hiring processes rather than on unauthorized workers. The increasing audits have made many a manager to resort to electronic I-9 in order to be compliant with ICE regulations and to avoid negative repercussions of non-compliance. We take a look at the pros and cons of using an electronic I-9 as opposed to the paper format.

Electronic systems rid employers of unwieldy paper I-9 forms that can be difficult to manage and internally audit, that contain illegible handwriting, and that aren’t environmentally friendly. An electronic I9 has been said to

  • Ensure consistency in completing forms
  • Reduce processing errors
  • Provide reminders and alerts for re-verification
  • Enable easier system controlled audits

When compared to managing paper I-9s an electronic system can boast of a number of advantages such as a system can have embedded controls to ensure no data is missing or incorrect while filling an I-9. Moreover an application can bring in alerts and reminders about impending document expiry and re-verification if any. Another feature an electronic I-9 boasts is the ease with which old and obsolete I-9s can be purged from the system.

Not only is it ecologically friendly, the ability to manage even a huge number of Form I-9 from a single location is attracting many to an automated system. However, managers should choose their system with great care as cases in the past indicate that an electronic form I-9 is also not foolproof. A leading garment manufacturer using an I-9 application that was built in-house was found to have technical glitches that have landed them in millions of dollars worth of fine as it did not follow the ICE stipulated regulations.

In August 2010, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) completed a new ruling regarding the electronic signing and storage of I-9 forms. The following can be said to be key points to be noted while adopting an automated I-9.

  • Retrieval systems with indexing functions that permits searches consistent with ICE requirements for accessibility and storage.
  • Clear audit trails that detail when I-9s are created, completed, updated, modified or corrected.
  • Assurance that when electronic records are created, completed or updated, there is a secure and permanent record created that establishes the date of access, the identity of the individual who accessed electronic records and a history of the action taken.
  • Proof that the system can easily produce I-9 paper copies, including batch and individual copies, as well as supporting documents.

Automated systems can make I-9 forms easier to store and inspect, bring consistency to the completion process, and reduce certain types of human error. But if compliance issues aren’t weighed as heavily as the benefits of workflow efficiencies when choosing I-9 software, your organization could easily find itself on the wrong side of an ICE audit.

EMPTrust provides automated I-9 solution to help you manage your I-9 forms. Our Form I-9 Services will enable you to fill, manage and store Form I-9s with ease.

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Any issues regarding compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations should be addressed through your legal department or outside counsel.

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