Best Practices for Completing I-9s for Remote Hires
Advances in technology have considerably broadened the workplace and made the ability to hire employees from another state possible, even without a physical office on site. While this effectively expands the talent base for employers, it poses a challenge for Human Resource Managers, specifically in completing Form I-9s for remote employees. How can this task be accomplished correctly within the required time frame?
Back to the Basics
Breaking down how to properly fill out the Form for remote hires dictates that we go back to the basics. The Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) has three sections that require employees and employers to fill out. Section 1 is filled out by the employee; Section 2 can only be filled out by the employer (or its authorized representative) after they have reviewed acceptable documentation of an employee’s authorization to work in the United State; and Section 3 can also only be filled out by the employer for reverification purposes or to enter rehire information, as needed.
The Issue with Section 2
Completing Section 2 of the Form I-9 requires a company representative to physically review the employee’s employment authorization documents regardless of where the employer is. It is also required that the employee be “physically present with the examiner of the documents during the examination of the employee’s documents.” Tempting as it may be, having the employee mail their documents or using video conferencing services, such as Skype, are not appropriate ways to complete the Form. For remote hires, you would need to have an authorized representative to act on your company’s behalf to complete the Form I-9.
Best Practice Tip #1: Know who you may appoint as your company’s Authorized Representative
It is a widely accepted practice to utilize the services of a Notary Public to act as the employer’s authorized representative; perhaps, too wide that many employers think this is the only way to handle Forms for remote hires. While the services of Notaries are acceptable, they are not the only ones allowed to represent your company. Your company may appoint any other representative it sees fit to act as the authorized representative and complete Section 2 of the Form. The authorized representative may be different for each situation: a Notary in one state or a colleague in another. In any case, consult your legal counsel on this matter and discuss who you may appoint as authorized representatives for I-9 Forms.
Best Practice Tip #2: Provide clear instructions for Authorized Representatives.
After you have established your authorized representatives, make sure that you are able to provide them with detailed instructions on how to complete the Form I-9. The challenge for employers here is that many find Forms to be incorrectly completed due to the representative’s unfamiliarity with I-9 requirements. This leaves the employers at risk of fines as the employer is ultimately responsible for the actions of the representative filling out Section 2. To reduce errors, create a sheet that lists all the steps you would like for your representative to take. Provide screenshots if you are able to.
Best Practice Tip #3: Start the I-9 process as early as possible.
The Form I-9 is a time-sensitive document that must be completed by the third business day of the employee’s hire date. Violation of this requirement can result in fines for the employer in the case of an audit, and may range from $100-$1,100 per Form. You may actually start the I-9 process with your employee as soon as they accept your offer for employment (as opposed to the employee’s start date). Take advantage of this extra time in case unforeseen circumstances delay your employee from completing the Form with your authorized representative.
Best Practice Tip #4: Explore the option of using an electronic system capable of handling I-9s for remote hires.
We mentioned that many employers who use authorized representatives find that “completed” Forms are sent back to them with errors that can cause monetary (or criminal) penalties during an audit. For example, the authorized representative may not have been aware of the difference between a Permanent Resident and an Alien Authorized to Work status when they were reviewing IDs or they may have failed to enter the employee’s start date. Using an electronic I-9 system, such as I-9Ensure, can assist your company in maintaining compliance even when you use an authorized representative who is not familiar with I-9s. This is accomplished by properly walking them through each step of the process and alerting them to any potential errors as they fill out the Form. With enough preparation and the proper tools, completing Form I-9s for remote hires is a manageable task. To prevent penalties during an audit, review your process and engage your counsel to ensure your process is compliant with Form I-9 requirements.