Ask the Experts: Form I-9 for Remote Employees

Question: When an employer hires a remote employee, how should the employer complete the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification?

Answer: The company can consider hiring a notary public or other agent to manage the administration of the verification process for remote workers where there is not a local office. One consideration is to contact a local staffing agency. The staffing agency is familiar with I-9 requirements and eligible documents for verification purposes and may charge a nominal fee for meeting this need. The company can also contract with a notary public. It is the employer’s responsibility to locate and provide compensation for this service.

The company may create an agreement with an agent who is contracted in advance for verification purposes of new hire documents relevant to completing the I-9 form. This individual could be a notary public, hired staffing agency, or other consultant or business professional. It is important to note that if someone verifies and completes the document on the company’s behalf, he or she must carry out full Form I-9 responsibilities. For example, the agent must view the live documents presented by the employee and must accurately complete Section 2 of the form on behalf of the company. The employer is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the I-9 is completed correctly by both the employee and the agent as the authorized signer under Section 2. The company should provide the agent verifying the form with a resource guide explaining the steps and requirements in advance. A useful tool is the USCIS’s Handbook for Employers, which provides instructions for completing the Form I-9.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides the following guidance:

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.