How to Complete Form I-9 for Non-HQ-Based Employees

By Jennifer Pawlak

The reality of the above is more prevalent today as organizations increasingly offer work-from-home options or have offices located around the country. New employees may never actually see an HR representative in person before starting their role. Since you know that the employer must complete Section 2 of the I-9 within 3 business days of the employee’s start date, what are your options to comply with that rule? Below I’ve given you a few suggestions for how to do this when someone isn’t in the same place as you. Some may seem cumbersome but are perfectly viable options.

Remember that “you must examine the documentation your employee presents to complete Section 2 of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. You are not required to be a document expert. You must accept documents that reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the person presenting them. However, if your new employee provides a document that does not reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to them, you must reject that document and ask for other documents that satisfy the requirements of Form I-9.”

Before I tell you what you can do, I need to remind you of what you 100% absolutely cannot do:

  • You cannot have an employee send you copies of their documents to review.
  • You cannot have someone else look at the original documents and then sign the form once you have reviewed copies. Please please please please please don’t do this. There is not one instance where this is acceptable.
  • You cannot have the employee complete Section 2 themselves.
  • You cannot complete Section 2 over the phone, Skype, FaceTime, or any other sort of video/teleconferencing system.

I don’t want to give you any more bad ideas, so let’s leave it at that.

Onto the good ideas!

  • Require new employees, regardless of location, to come to your headquarters to complete their I-9. The downside of this is that it’s gonna cost you. The upside is that your I-9 process will be streamlined and controlled. And it could be rolled into your overall on-boarding process.
  • Have a member of the HR team travel to the new employee’s location to complete the form in person. Again, this will cost you, but also allows for process uniformity.
  • If you have an office that is near where the new employee will be working (or is actually working there #obvi), then you can have a manager or someone else in that office complete Section 2. Bonus points for having a local HR person in the office there complete it.
  • If your organization has large numbers of off-site employees like those in the construction or agriculture industries, consider switching to an electronic system. This would allow a foreman or site manager to have a laptop or tablet, or maybe even a desktop computer, set up for employees to complete I-9s on the spot and allow that manager to complete Section 2 without delay.

In the ever-evolving scenario where your new employee works remotely from their home, or nowhere near a company office, things can get tricky.

  • The USCIS suggests sending your employee to a notary with specific instructions and request that the notary complete Section 2 of the form as an agent for the employer. This is because notaries are usually familiar with looking at documents and completing forms. It is NOT for them to act in a notarial capacity. This works a good deal of the time. It doesn’t work in California if the notary is not a bonded immigration consultant. And it doesn’t work if the notary simply refuses (it happens!). In this case, you or the employee may ask anyone else to complete Section 2 of their form (generally it’s not a good idea to ask a family member, but that would work in a pinch).
  • You could ask someone you know in the area, a local attorney, someone in HR at a neighboring company, etc.
  • There are I-9 “completer” networks starting to pop up, so you may have luck in looking up one of those online (this will probably cost you a few dollars to use).
  • If you use an electronic system for your I-9s, some are now participating in these networks so you would have your employee make an appointment at a specific location where the person would be familiar with I-9 requirements and also that electronic system.

Having the employee visit someone on their own, or even having a local manager or HR person complete the form, requires additional follow up on your part. You must ensure that the form is completed according to the appropriate timeline (day 1 for employee; within 3 business days for employer) and you must review the form when it arrives back to you. You should not allow an employee to keep their own Form I-9.

The takeaway here is that even if you don’t have this problem now, you probably will in the future. Make a plan ahead of time and you won’t have to scramble when the situation arises!

Recent Posts