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How Employers Should Handle I-9 Verification for Remote Employees

February 2013

By: Ryan M. Helgeson, Esq.

Companies in all industries and occupations use employees in many remote locations, whether in branch offices or as telecommuting employees. In these situations, complying with the Form I-9 employment verification can cause logistical headaches.

The regulations governing Form I-9 require that the person completing and signing the Section Two attestation must be able to see the employee in the flesh and review the physical identification documents to determine them to be genuine on their face. For remote employees, it often impractical for the responsible human resources official to travel to meet the employee in person before employment begins.

Designating an agent to complete the Form I-9

The current version of the M-274 Handbook (the official government guidance on completing Form I-9) confirms that an employer "may designate someone to fill out Forms I-9 for you, such as a personnel officer, foreman, agent, or anyone else acting on your behalf, such as a notary public." If an agent completes the Form I-9 on the employer's behalf, the agent must carry out full Form I-9 responsibilities. Accordingly, the agent must not only view the employment authorization and identity documents, but also sign Section Two.

Who can act as the employer's agent?

The employer can designate any individual to act as their Form I-9 agent for remote employees. Because of their reputation for trustworthiness, many businesses choose to use attorneys or notary publics. There is no requirement to use an attorney or a notary public. Additionally, there is often confusion about the notary's role in the Form I-9 process. The notary is simply acting as an individual agent, not as an official notary public when completing the Form I-9. Thus, the notary is not signing and notarizing the form.

Solutions to the remote employee verification problem

While any person can act as an agent on behalf of the employer, credibility and trustworthiness are important considerations. A good practice is for your business to develop a network of notary public agents or designated attorneys to act as agents on your behalf.

Finally, if your business uses agents, it is important to develop a Standard Operating Procedure for the agents to follow. The procedure should include, at a minimum, steps for the agent to follow in completing the Form I-9 and instructions for the employee and agent to follow after the Form I-9 is completed.

If you have questions regarding Form I-9 Verification requirements or any other employment immigration issue, please contact Attorney Ryan M. Helgeson at (630) 377-1554 or at ryhelgeson@wesselssherman.com.