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How to Verify I-9 Documents for Remote Employees

Posted on January 18, 2017
Kayla DineenWritten by Kayla Dineen | Email author

As HR consultants, we are all too familiar with the Form I-9 and the requirement of all US employers to complete and maintain a form for each employee hired into their organization. Yet, in many organizations when we conduct an HR compliance audit, we find there to be some level of non-compliance with the Form I-9.  Why is that?  I believe it’s because of a general lack of understanding of the many nuances involved in completing the form.

Often times the I-9 form is seen as a check in the box and mundane process in which minor administrative errors aren’t of major concern to most organizations.  What you may not know is that those minor administrative errors can add up to hefty penalties in the event of an audit.  There are a number of resources available to you that spell out the requirements of how to compliantly complete and maintain the Form I-9 and to help you understand potential penalties for non-compliance associated with the Form I-9. I summarized the steps in another article you can find here.

I-9 Verification for Remote Employees

One of the most common challenges with I-9 compliance that I have come across is the ability to have a company representative complete Section 2 of the Form when the employee is located in a remote location away from any other employees of the company.  Sound familiar?

The guidance often given in these situations is to have the remote employee use a local notary public to notarize the Form I-9.  Well, this guidance is only partially accurate and is often unclear to the employee and the notary public who is approached for assistance.  In many cases, this process doesn’t work out as intended because a notary public is not sure of their responsibilities or the process in completing the Form I-9 and the employee is left stating “well that’s what my employer told me to do”.  I’ve had a number of clients share that employees came back and said the notary republic refused to help them.  So before you designate a notary public or other external representative as your authorized representative of the organization, which is a viable solution to this problem, here are a few things to understand about how to do so in a compliant manner.

3 Things to Consider When Using an I-9 Notary

Three things to consider when designating a Notary Public as your company’s authorized representative for I-9 compliance:

  1. The Notary Public does not actually notarize the Form I-9. He/she is simply entrusted to review the forms of Identification, complete the form, and attest that to the best of their knowledge the information provided is true and accurate.
  1. The Notary Public may not feel comfortable completing the Form I9 if they’ve not received a valid request from the employer to serve as their authorized representative. Although it may take a little bit of work, it is a best practice to have the remote employee find the notary public who will complete the form and provide your organization with their contact information. Then have a representative from your HR team connect with the notary public and grant them permission to serve as your authorized representative.  This way the notary public feels comfortable completing a government form on your behalf.  This article from the American Society of Notaries was written to help Notaries feel more comfortable about this type of request and their role in serving as your authorized representative; consider including it in your initial request.
  1. The Notary Public may not be familiar with the requirements of the form. It is recommended to provide clear guidance on what you are hoping to review and what information you are hoping for them to complete on the Form I-9 so that once completed it is done so without the administrative errors referenced earlier in this article. It is important to know that under the certification portion of the form the Notary Public would use “Authorized Representative” as his/her title, and your organization’s name and address where requested.

With so many companies, especially government contractors, managing a remote workforce ensure your HR department understands the importance of I-9 compliance.  Understanding how to properly use an external authorized representative to complete the Form I-9, is a major stepping stone in ensuring Form I-9 compliance within your organization.

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