The federal government requires all new hires to present documentation that proves they can legally work in the United States. For citizens that could be a passport, a driver’s license or Social Security card. Non-citizens have to show documents that prove they are in the country legally and that they have permission to work.
The Form I-9 has to be filled out properly and stored in case Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) show up at your business to conduct an audit—which is getting more and more likely these days.
Since 2009 I-9 audits have gone up nearly 2,000%. And considering an average of 68% of the forms have errors, this is an issue employers really need to focus on. HR managers can easily get the Form I-9 filled out and filed away for local employees, but what about I-9 for remote employees?
Why is Remote I-9 Verification Different?
In today’s work world, you could be hiring people that live hundreds, or even thousands of miles away from your home base. This creates a true problem for employers hiring remote employees.
The basic steps of filling out the form I-9 remain the same regardless of geographical challenges:
- Section 1 of the form needs to be filled out within the first day of a hire.
- Section 2 has to be completed within 3 business days from that date of hire.
- Section 2 needs to be viewed and signed by a company agent or representative.
While the Department of Homeland Security is well aware of how difficult this can be, they don’t bend at all. That means employers have to figure out a way to carry out a remote I-9 verification.
Electronic services automate most of the process and make it almost error proof. But employers still need a real person, on the ground with the remote hire, to physically look at their documents and vouch for their authenticity by signing Section 2.
Employers only have three days to inspect and verify the authenticity of a new hire’s eligibility documents. Since it must be done in person, employers essentially have two options for verifying I-9 documents for remote employees:
- Designate an authorized representative to inspect the documents for remote employees.
- Use a notary public.
Who Are I-9 Authorized Representatives?
An authorized representative or authorized agent can technically be anyone. You can borrow an HR rep from a company near your remote hire, use an attorney or even a librarian.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not require these authorized agents to have any specific qualifications. The most important thing to remember when finding an authorized agent is that he or she needs to be someone you trust. If they fill out the form incorrectly and you get audited, you could face some hefty fines because of their mistakes.
The only thing that is mandated by law is that this job be done in person. Having your hire show you their documents through email or even live over a webcam is NOT adequate.
Should You Hire a Notary?
Lots of people assume a notary public makes perfect sense to fill out Section 2 of the Form I-9, but that is not necessarily the case.
In fact, it is absolutely against the rules to put a notary seal on this document.
Notaries do have a lot of experience filling out government forms and reviewing documents which makes them a responsible choice, but they should be clearly guided on their responsibilities and reminded just to sign, not to seal!
Simplify the Remote I-9 Verification Process
Combining your I-9 process with you background screening is a good way to simplify the process and guarantee your forms are filled out correctly.
EBI's I-9 solution uses state-of-the-art technology to make sure all of the data on the forms is correct. It also offers several options for getting forms completed for remote hires:
- Client or employee choice – The client can designate someone (e.g. location manager) to be the agent, or the client can require the employee to pick someone to serve as the agent.
- Agent Network – They can choose to use EBI’s agent network which is comprised of thousands of notaries and would meet with the employee at a mutually agreeable location (e.g. Starbucks).
- PAN locations – They can schedule to visit a brick and mortar location in which we leverage PAN (Performance Assessment Network).
This might seem like a lot of effort for such a small form, but doing it wrong is simply dangerous to your bottom line. If you are audited, mistakes can cost you between $110 and $1,100 for each non-compliant form.
You can see how we handle this process with a 30-minute demo of our platform. Visit our demo page to sign-up for a 1-on-1 demo.