Original Date: October 8, 2018

I recently completed a webinar on storing and retaining I-9 forms, one of my favorite topics.  The webinar included detailed discussion on fines, processes, common mistakes, proactive audits and challenges with verification of remote workers.  Verifying and complying with I-9 form requirements can be challenging with a remote workforce.  What processes do we follow?  How do we verify the information is legal and accurate?  A 2017 SHRM article, “explained that remote hires must still complete section 1 of the form and the employer’s agent or representative must complete section 2 in its entirety, including a tactile inspection of the documents presented by the employee.  This means no photocopying of the documents and sending them to human resources for completion of section 2.”[i]

Below are thoughts on Form I-9 compliance and remote workers:

  1. Create a Policy or Process: The policy should be clear on who can act as an agent for our organization.  The policy should include instructions and guidance on how to manage the process.  SHRM recommends; HR professionals or consultants, local librarians, attorneys or accountants, state workforce agency staff or notaries.  “It’s also important to know which states may prohibit notaries from completing the Form I-9 or have different requirements…California, for example, has indicated that the completion of an I-9 form requires you to be bonded as an immigration consultant.”[ii]  Other thoughts on notaries; the Notary Public does not actually notarize the form I-9.  The individual should review the identification submitted, complete the form and attests that the information is true and accurate to the best of their ability.  Organizations should send a valid request to the Notary Public prior to requesting completion of the form, to avoid confusion, mistakes and refusing to complete.  The final concern is unfamiliarity with the form.  If you have remote workers, networking with notaries and providing guidance is necessary.  Notaries are not trained to complete Form I-9’s, proactive communication is necessary.
  1. Clear Guidance and Instruction for Form Completion: Communicate timely and accurate instructions to the notary and the employee in a standard letter.  Describe the process, instructions and the importance of completing the form.  A frequently asked questions section is a great add to the instructions.  The guidance should highlight instructions for returning the completed forms in their original state, as soon as possible.  Providing a return paid envelope will is a recommendation to expedite the process.  Organizations should also consider calling the employee or notary to assist during the verification process.
  1. Review and Audit all Remote (and in person) Completed I-9 Forms:

“Common mistakes to look for include:

  • Wrong documents accepted.
  • Missing or transposed document information.
  • Failure to retain photocopies when required by the organization or E-Verify.”[iii]


USCIS Guidance on Remote Workers:

“You may designate an authorized representative to fill out Forms I-9 on behalf of your company, including personnel officers, foremen, agents or notary public.  The Department of Homeland Security does not require the authorized representative to have specific agreements or other documentation for Form I-9 purposes.  If an authorized representative fills out Form I-9 on your behalf, you are still liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process.

When completing Form, I-9, you or authorized representative must physically examine each 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.  DHS does not require the authorized representative to have specific agreements or other documentation for Form I-9 purposes. If you hire a notary public, the notary public is acting as an authorized representative of you, 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.”[iv]

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/how-to-comply-i9-requirements-remote-workers.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/how-to-comply-i9-requirements-remote-workers.aspx

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/how-to-comply-i9-requirements-remote-workers.aspx

[iv] https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/i-9-central-questions-answers/faq/i-hire-my-employees-remotely-how-do-i-complete-form-i-9


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