I-9 Compliance: How to Verify Remote Employees
I-9 Compliance: How to Verify Remote Employees

I-9 Compliance: How to Verify Remote Employees

What is Form I-9?

The I-9 is a government form filled out by an employee to confirm their identity and verify they are legally able to work in the United States. It’s also known as an Employee Eligibility Form.

The form dates back to 1986 during the Reagan administration, which passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). It was created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Part of the act makes employers legally responsible for verifying whether their employees can legally work in the United States.

Why is an I-9 required?

In addition to being used to verify employment eligibility, Form I-9 as well as the IRCA are used to attempt to reduce discrimination against employees who are not from the United States but who are legally eligible to work in the country.

I-9 verification for remote employees

More companies are finding that hiring remote employees is a great money saver. However, that bonus comes with a bit of a challenge. Form I-9 must be completed and submitted within three days of an employee’s hire. You’re not permitted to use video conferencing. And all verification documentation must be viewed in person. So, how’s this supposed to happen?

Trusted agents and representatives

The government allows a “trusted agent” or “trusted representative” to represent the employer when an employee can’t hand over their documents in person. This person can be a notary public, an attorney or accountant, even a librarian. It’s important that your instructions for completing the form include which people can serve as a trusted agent for remote employees.

Completing Form I-9

As the employer it’s your responsibility to provide new hires with Form I-9 once they’ve accepted a job offer. The form has three sections to complete: one for the employee and two for you as the employer.

Section 1 of Form I-9: Employee Responsibility

Section 1 of the form is filled out by the employee. They must provide their full name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, email address and phone number. They must also state their status as an authorized employee.

They’re either:

  • A citizen of the United States
  • A noncitizen national of the United States
  • A lawful permanent resident (Provide Alien Registration Number/USCIS Number)
  • An alien authorized to work until a specific date

If the employee falls under the last category, they will need to provide the date their authorization expires, as well as either their USCIS Number, Form I-94 Admission Number, or Foreign Passport Number, as well as the country that issued the passport. They must also sign and date the form.

Section 2 of Form I-9: Employer Responsibility

Section 2 of the form is completed by the employer, verifying that they have received the employee’s acceptable verification documents, recording which documents were viewed, and signing off on the form.

Section 3 of Form I-9: Employer Responsibility

Section 3, the “Reverification and Rehires” section is also filled out by the employer, but it isn’t always necessary. It’s filled out if the employee experienced a year-plus gap of employment or if their employment visa recently expired. The employer fills out any relevant changes and provides proof of new authorization documentation.

FYI: The Spanish Form I-9 is for use only in Puerto Rico. All other Spanish-speaking employees can have a translator help fill out the form. If that’s the situation, the translator must fill out the bottom of Section 1 with their signature, date, name and address.

Acceptable Verification Documents

All eligible employees have to physically provide documentation as proof of their employment eligibility, and the documents must be actually viewed by the employer. The acceptable verification documents are in the table below.

Employees must present either one item from List A or a combination of one item from List B and one item from List C.

List A  List B  List C 
U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card  Driver’s license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United States provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address  A Social Security Account Number card, unless the card includes one of the following restrictions:

• NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT

• VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH INS AUTHORIZATION

• VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION

 
Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551)  ID card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address  Certification of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Forms DS-1350, FS-545, FS-240) 
Foreign passport that contains a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation on a machine-readable immigrant visa  School ID card with a photograph  Original or certified copy of birth certificate issued by a State, county, municipal authority, or territory of the United States bearing an official seal 
Employment Authorization Document that contains a photograph (Form I-766)   Voter registration card   Native American tribal document 
For a nonimmigrant alien authorized to work for a specific employer because of his or her status:

a) A foreign passport and

b) Form I-94 or Form I-94A that has the following: (1) The same name as the passport; and (2) An endorsement of the alien’s nonimmigrant status as long as that period of endorsement has not yet expired and the proposed employment is not in conflict with any restrictions or limitations identified on the form.  
  U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197)  
Passport from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) with Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association Between the United States and the FSM or RMI.  U.S. Military card or draft record   Identification Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the United States (Form I-179)  
  Military dependent ID card  Employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security 
  U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card   
  Native American tribal document   
  Driver’s license issued by a Canadian government authority   

Compliance and Form I-9

Employers are responsible for ensuring that the Form I-9 is properly completed and the employee’s eligibility verified. If you, as the employer, fail to do so or knowingly hire unauthorized employees, you could get in hot water with the government. Fines for simple errors such as incomplete forms, range from $110 to $1,100 per violation. But fines climb to $16,000 per violation for knowingly employing unauthorized workers.

Record high I-9 audits

An increase in government audits of Form I-9 has made the list of top compliance concerns for U.S. employers. As you’ve likely seen in the news, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspections and audits have risen steeply over the past two years, resulting in a record number of arrests and fines.

Employers are under increased scrutiny to ensure that their workers are legally employed and that their hiring practices are in line with the law. Failure to comply can really damage a company’s brand and good standing as well as its very existence. HR professionals and business owners alike must keep a close eye on the status of employees’ authorizations to work in the U.S.

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For nearly 30 years, Paycor has maintained a core expertise in payroll and compliance. And we’re proud to help our 30,000-client base adapt and stay ahead of the latest federal and state laws and regulations. Start a conversation with one of our expert consultants and learn how we can help protect your business.

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