By Tania Fiero, PHR, SHRM-CP

When onboarding a new employee there are a barrage of forms that must be completed and the Federal Form I-9 is one that has specific timeframes to adhere to or risk penalties of $110-$1,100 per violation. This is fairly easy for employers to manage when the employee hired is working on site. But what does a company do when the employee is working remotely?

The solutions are not difficult, just clumsy at best. The employer can’t use a fax machine or US Mail because the person completing the form must physically view the original identification. Employers can use electronic signatures as long as it meets the requirements provided by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) however that too does not solve the need to view the original documents. (For more information visit USCIS website here.)  The problem here is you need a set of eyeballs to go to where the employee is!

The Immigration Reform Control Act of 1986 does allow employers to identify and use an Authorized Representatives to complete the Form I-9 on their behalf.

As the employer of record for thousands of temporary and contractor payrollees nationwide, we frequently rely on authorized representatives to complete I-9s.  Our experience is that there is no silver bullet therefore we have several options available when needed.  You may already be familiar with these options but I’ll list a few:

  1. Clients of the Staffing Vendor – Our clients frequently act as an agent on our behalf.  The client’s HR team is the perfect solution as they are trained on the proper completion of this form and they have a vested interest in helping onboard our candidate.       Other individuals at the client site also frequently act as our agent including supervisors, procurement, accounting, and fellow coworkers.
  2. Notary Public – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) specifically allows for notaries to act as an authorized representative, but not as a notary. If you think about the services a notary provides, it’s acting as a witness that a person signed a document and that the person is who they claim to be.  Acting as an authorized representative for purposes of the I-9 is not solely witnessing a signature, but an authorized representative also has responsibilities to complete the form on behalf of the employer and sign an attestation that the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. When acting as an authorized representative notaries should not use their notary seal.  Please note that there may be specific state laws that address notaries for example in CA, the Secretary of State requires notaries that perform I-9 services to have filed a $100k bond from a corporate surety, an Immigration Consultant Disclosure form, and a background check with the Secretary of State.
  3. Outsource to a Vendor – There are vendors that can help companies manage the completion of the Form I-9 using a combination of web based tools, notaries and signing locations throughout the U.S.  Equifax and I-9 Advantage are two of those companies that you may want to explore.
  4. Authorize Someone You Trust –  The DHS specifically allows for “an authorized representative to fill out the Forms I-9 on behalf of your company, including personnel officers, foremen, agents or notary public.”  No special forms are required however the employer is still liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process. Note that there are no exclusions identified however you may want to have internal policies and procedures to vet the person.
  5. Hire the Employee through a Staffing Firm or PEO – These organizations have systems already in place to hire remotely or may have a branch location where you want to hire.

As always, I recommend reviewing any plan to use an authorized representative with legal counsel.

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