Remote Employees and the Inevitable I-9

Remote I-9 compliance is something we hear a lot about lately, but what does it really mean? Anyone who works in HR knows that the Form I-9 must be completed properly and be readily available in case of an audit—which is getting more common these days. For an organization that employs remote employees it can be especially difficult to obtain the right documents in the manor required by U.S. Federal agencies. Regardless of location, remote hires must still complete section 1 of the form and the employer’s agent (personnel officers, foremen, agents or notary public) must then complete section 2 in its entirety, including a tactile inspection of the documents presented by the employee within three days. Alternate methods of document inspection such as scanning or photocopies for completion of Section 2 is prohibited.

So what is a company to do?

“How in the world can you complete an I-9 form for a newly hired individual who lives hundreds or even thousands of miles away from your nearest office or location, is unable to visit a hiring or HR manager anytime soon, and as it turns out, is super important and must begin work as soon as possible?” — John Fay, Vice President and General Counsel at the LawLogix division of Hyland Software.

Great question John. We work in a global economy and remote workers are a growing part of the global workforce. Healthcare, light industrial and construction sectors in particular hire remote workers that are often hours away from the nearest company office location. But as with most things, companies find a way. There are a few approaches to completing a remote I-9:

  • Remote Employee Agent – HR reps can designate an on-site employee as the remote agent (i.e. operations manager). This person is designated to verify the proof documentation within the three day requirement.
  • Connect with an Agent Network –Connect with a service provider that offers a network of agents that can verify documentation on the company’s behalf.
  • Technology/Software Solution– Software solutions that specialize in onboarding may also provide a remote I-9 process that will electronically verify & submit proof documents. Look for a provider that utilizes photo-match technology, electronic signatures, E-Verify and data encryption for enhanced security.

The Department of Homeland Security states that if an authorized representative fills out Form I-9 on behalf on the employer, the employer is still liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process. To avoid unnecessary risk and possible fines, it is imperative that the I-9 agent receives training to ensure the accurate completion and verification of the Form I-9 and proof documentation. Some of the training may include ways to spot counterfeit documents, checking for expired documents or invalid proof documents.

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

If the authorized representative refuses to complete Form I-9 (including providing a signature) another authorized representative may be selected. If the employer hires a notary public, the notary public is acting as an authorized representative of the employer, not as a notary. The notary public 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.

Lots to think about when it comes to the remote I-9 process. Are you ready?