Small Business and I-9 Compliance

Businesses nationwide have been expected to complete a Form I-9 for employees to ensure their eligibility to work in the U.S. since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 has been in place. While this can be a bigger undertaking for larger businesses of one hundred or more employees, federal law still requires that small businesses follow the same rules to be I-9 compliant. In reality, the stakes can be even higher for small businesses found to be non-compliant. For this reason, more small businesses are turning to digital I-9 compliance software to help make the process more effective and reliable, from start to finish. Businesses with a defined process and ownership and who regularly track and proactively review their I-9s are best positioned to steer clear of penalties and fines during an I-9 audit.

Common I-9 Compliance Roadblocks for Small Businesses

The Form I-9 can appear unassuming, after all it is just a form. However, the amount of data required, combined with the varied guidelines and deadlines for each section, especially Section 2 of the form, can make it complicated and sometimes confusing. And some complications can yield mistakes that can negatively impact a business, and the need to avoid common I-9 compliance roadblocks like these becomes critical. Here are some of the most common mistakes small businesses often make:

Innocent mistakes.

Through the eyes of an ICE Auditor, a mistake is a mistake, whether it is innocent or not. An error can range from accidentally transposing a couple of numbers to unintentionally leaving a field blank to forgetting to add a signature where designated.

Missed deadlines.

All three sections of a Form I-9 have distinct deadlines for completion. Should a section not be finished within the assigned window of time, it may be considered a violation, which could result in a penalty.

Incomplete recording of the Identification & Work Authorization documents.

If an employer is not diligent in collecting and recording all of the appropriate documents required on the Form I-9, it will affect compliance and be considered a violation.

Not Tracking of Expired Document.

Some of the work authorization documents expire and require follow up from time to time to collect new valid information. For example, an employee who is authorized to work under an temporary status such as a H-1b, L-1a/b visa or one who holds an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) all have expiring work authorization dates. It is the employer’s responsibility to be aware of upcoming documents set to expire and to contact the employee well in advance of the expiration date so to obtain updated proof of eligibility to work before those documents expire.

Retention Management.

Employers are required by law to maintain for inspection the original Forms I-9 for all current employees. In the case of former employees, retention of Forms I-9 are required for a period of at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer.

How I-9 Violations Can Spell Big Problems for Small Businesses

The consequences of being found non-compliant during an audit on one or more counts may spell big problems for small businesses. Violations are normally categorized into one of these two categories:

  1. Civil. This is typically due to not being compliant via employment verification, document fraud or abuse, discrimination, etc.
  2. Criminal. These violations can be more serious and are generally due to documented patterns of hiring, referring, or conducting fee-based recruiting of individuals unauthorized to work in the United States.

Fines and penalties can be crippling to the bottom line. Auditors typically apply a fine per violation. That can potentially mean multiple violations for just one employee. If those violations appear in more than one employee Form I-9, the hefty fines and penalties associated can add up quickly. For example, penalties for substantive violations, which includes failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $230 to $2,292 per violation. Where as monetary penalties for an employer who knowingly employs and continues to employ unauthorized workers could face violations range up to $20k per violation. ICE considers five factors: the size of the business, good faith effort to comply, seriousness of violation, whether the violation involved unauthorized workers, and history of previous violations. In a worse case scenario a company can lose their license to operate temporarily or indefinitely if found non-compliant.

If a company receives a Notice of Inspection (NOI) from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement “ICE” employers they should contact their legal counsel immediately for advice. ICE will provide the company with at least three business days to produce the Forms I-9. Often, ICE will also request other supporting documentation, such as a copy of the payroll, list of current employees, Articles of Incorporation, and business licenses.

Why Small Businesses Can Benefit from Using Digital I-9 Compliance Software

Because a small business often has less management positions to assist with new hires and handling the employment on-boarding process and paperwork, additional resources such as digital I-9 compliance software is extremely helpful. Some of the ways that compliance software can be beneficial to a small business include:

  • Minimization of common mistakes due to errors such as blank fields or missing signatures, reducing a companies risks for violations
  • Assistance with tracking the hiring process progression with notifications for upcoming deadlines
  • Provides additional oversight of the employment verification, reverification, and document retention stages
  • Notifications sent regarding upcoming document expiration dates
  • Integration between the electronic Form I-9 and the government’s E-Verify web services saves time, costs and further reduces opportunity for error and non-compliance liabilities
  • Centralized management reports to track omissions, actions and overall program’s compliance

When it comes to small businesses and I-9 compliance, there is no leniency in federal laws regarding ensuring that employees are eligible to work in the United States. Do not carry this weight on your shoulders alone or unnecessarily risk your company’s compliance. Enlist the help of a vendor who can implement a digital I-9 compliance software today and bask in the peace of mind it can offer.

I-9 Compliance Is A Must, Looking Over Your Shoulder Is Optional

Immigration law can be confusing for companies to successfully navigate. Fortunately, even though federal law says Form I-9 compliance is a must, looking over your shoulder is optional if you can have confidence in your process. Those concerned with their company’s I-9 compliance should consider adding digital I-9 compliance software to their process for added peace of mind.

The Form I-9 and Why It Has to Be Completed

The Form I-9 was established by the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This federal mandate requires employers to complete this form for employees at the time of hire to both verify their identity and eligibility to work in the U.S.

Since completing the Form I-9 is federal law, failing to do so is considered a violation of that statute. If your company is audited and is found to be missing I-9 Forms or have incomplete forms, you will be in violation of the law and could face a range of punitive consequences for each individual offense.

Completing the Form I-9 for new hires is not a suggestion, it is the law.

How the Form I-9 Is Set Up

The Form I-9 itself can look fairly simple, with three main sections to be completed, but don’t let that deceive you because the details matter. The form identifies specific guidelines and deadlines which must be observed for it to be valid.

There are three key sections of the Form I-9:

  1. Section One: This first section is designed primarily to gather personal information about an employee and should be completed by the employee by their first day of employment. In addition to providing accurate information, employees must also sign the document vouching for its validity. The employer’s responsibility for this section is to see that the employee has completed it properly and completely.
  2. Section Two: The middle section of the form is a little more complicated due to the deadline of having it completed within three days of an employee’s first day on the job. This section has an employee provide their employer with Form I-9 approved identification documents. At this point, employers must examine each of these documents in good faith for authenticity, which can in turn affect the employee’s work eligibility.
  3. Section Three: This last section is in large part the employer’s responsibility in the event that an employee’s work authorization expires, an employee changes their name, or an employee is rehired within three years of the date on their original Form I-9.

Common Form I-9 Mistakes

Filling out a Form I-9 is typically not a simple matter for employers who are not well trained in the proper procedure. Not only can it complicate things substantially, but it can also yield common mistakes such as the below which may result in serious consequences for the company:

  • Incomplete information. An employer who is rushed or inexperienced in completing a form may not remember to check for blank fields or missing signatures.
  • Inaccurate data. It is critical for the Form I-9 to be completed accurately. Even a small typo or transposed number can have a big effect on the validity of a Form I-9.
  • Identification document problems. While an employee is required to provide approved identification documents, an employer is tasked with being diligent in collecting those documents and reviewing them in good faith within the deadline window.
  • Missed deadlines. Each section of the Form I-9 comes with specific deadlines that must be adhered to in order to be considered compliant. This requires employers to stay on top of the situation at all times.
  • Management of forms. There are even Form I-9 rules regarding the accessibility and retention. The forms must be readily accessible when needed in the case of an audit. Employers must also follow rules regarding how long a form should be retained and when it should be destroyed. The misplacement of forms is also a common and costly mistake.

It is estimated that more than half of Form I-9s filled out each year contain errors such as these. While these mistakes are among the most commonly made by employers, make no mistake that each has the capability to negatively impact a company’s compliance and potentially result in punitive measures.

The Perks of Using Digital Compliance Software for A Form I-9

No company wants to be on the receiving end of hefty Form I-9 violations. Not only can it cause headaches for a company’s financials and workforce, if picked up by the media it may make them a household name with a negative connotation that can essentially damage or ruin their reputation. To help avoid situations like these, digital I-9 compliance software is recommended.

Some of the perks of using digital compliance software for the Form I-9 can include:

  • Creating a digital, paperless solution. Making the process digital cuts down on the filing and management of thousands of pieces of paper.
  • Facilitating on-boarding. The program should provide a printable checklist for both employees and employers so that they know exactly what information will be required and be able to keep track of each step’s completion.
  • Creating efficiency. Digital software is designed to make the Form I-9 process more efficient by alerting users to blank fields, upcoming expirations or deadlines, and even streamlining the interaction between the Form I-9 and the federal E-Verify program.
  • Reducing errors and increasing compliance. The software should be able to calculate some possible instances of human error before a form is submitted to reduce errors that could have ended up being costly violations.
  • Assisting with document archiving. The program provides employers with reminders regarding which documents must be retained and which must be destroyed.
  • Facilitating reporting and audits. Digital compliance software can help facilitate and streamline reporting for audits, locating audit trails, and printing of I-9 records.

I-9 compliance is a must, but companies utilizing digital Form I-9 software can rest easy and know that looking over their shoulder is only optional.

I-9 Flexibility Extension For Remote Hires

Recently, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly announced an I-9 flexibility extension for those workplaces continuing to operate remotely amidst the coronavirus pandemic. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The revised flexibility proclamation deals primarily with Section Two of the Form I-9 and the extension has been expanded with a new deadline of August 31, 2021.

I-9 Flexibility Extension

As of April 1, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security revised its extension of its original flexibility guidelines. Under this extension:

  • Companies with employees who are in person at a company location on a predictable or regular basis will be required to inspect Form I-9 Section Two documents in person.
  • Employers hiring employees on or after April 1, 2021 that work remotely due to the pandemic should be temporarily exempt (until the extension expires) from inspecting their Form I-9 Section Two documents in person.

The current extension that went into effect on April 1 is expected to be valid until August 31, 2021, at which point the Department of Homeland Security may reevaluate and either discontinue or renew the extension.

What Is in Section Two of the Form I-9?

The Form I-9 is the result of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. As of its passing, the federal government requires an employer to verify a new employee’s identity and work eligibility for them to be authorized to work in the United States.

The form has three main sections, each with its own set of rules and deadlines. The first section of the form deals primarily with collecting an employee’s personal information to aid in verifying their identity. The third section is geared toward an employee name change, rehire within three years of an original Form I-9, or the renewal of an expiring work authorization.

Section Two is the part of the form most affected by the above mentioned I-9 flexibility extension. It requires an employee to provide their employer with Form I-9 approved documentation to aid with verifying their eligibility to work. There are three lists of documents generally approved to be used for Section Two including:

  • List A Documents: These documents can help establish an individual’s identity and work eligibility.
  • List B Documents: These documents are generally for the purpose of establishing an employee’s identity and may also require that an item from List C Documents be presented as well.
  • List C Documents: The documents on this list can help establish an employee’s authorization to work and usually require an item from List B Documents also be presented.

The verifying of identity and work authorization as it pertains to Section Two of the Form I-9 is typically required to be done in person and within three business days of an employee’s first day. However, the coronavirus pandemic has necessitated some flexibility, hence the guidelines of the extension listed below.

Original I-9 Flexibility Guidelines

With a large number of companies still working remotely amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security said it would use discretion in deferring some physical presence requirements related to the Form I-9.

More simply put, this may exempt employers of companies working remotely from reviewing a new employee’s identity and work eligibility documents in their physical presence. It does not give employers a pass from performing due diligence in inspecting documents remotely within the three business day deadline indicated on the Form I-9. It is critical for employers to note COVID-19 as the reason for the delay of Form I-9 Section Two documents.

Employers choosing to take advantage of the Department of Homeland Security’s temporary discretion should:

  • Offer written documentation of each employee’s remote onboarding
  • Offer written documentation of each employee’s telework policy

As previously noted, this flexibility may only be offered to employers who are operating remotely. A business with employees onsite is not eligible.

However, once regular in-person operations begin again for a once remote employer, within three days they should:

  • Review identification and work eligibility documents in person for employees onboarded remotely during the pandemic
  • Note the date of that physical inspection on the Form I-9

Stay Up To Date on Developments

To stay on top of the latest developments, employers are encouraged to closely follow the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement websites for more information. This is critical as when the extension expires, employers will be held responsible for meeting the most current Form I-9 guidelines. Failure to do so could negatively impact their compliance status.

If you have questions regarding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the I-9 flexibility extension, reach out to a reputable and experienced provider who is intimately familiar with I-9 compliance rules and regulations for assistance.

No One Is Above Form I-9 Compliance

Employers across the nation are required to have employees complete a Form I-9 to prove their identity and eligibility to work in the United States thanks to federal law. However, it is not uncommon for some employers to mistakenly think they can slide under the radar either without being audited or investigated. Unfortunately, that is not the case. No one is above Form I-9 compliance.

Most employers do one of two things in their response to the 1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act:

  1. Follow protocol to ensure compliance as mandated by law.
  2. Ignore protocol and hope they won’t be subjected to an audit or investigation.

Ultimately employers must choose which path they will take, but only one leads to compliance mandated by federal law, stability of the business, and the peace of mind that can come with it.

No One Is Above Form I-9 Compliance

Those that think they might be able to escape the long arm of the law should think again. Just recently Elon Musk’s Space X came under investigation by the United States Department of Justice for allegations by a job applicant that the company may have discriminated against hiring him for his citizenship status.

Only time will tell how this case will play out for Elon Musk’s Space X, but regardless employers need to be sitting up and taking notice. Rather than being randomly audited, the investigation is likely tied to the allegations made by a potential employee who did not receive a job offer.

In other words, an investigation is not always random. Sometimes it can be triggered from within the walls of your own business.

Common Triggers for an I-9 Investigation

Many employers incorrectly assume that audits are only random. While some investigations are the product of random selection, others may be triggered by situations such as:

  • Notification of authorities by a prospective, current, or former employee
  • Participation in the construction, food production, or landscaping industries
  • Involvement with industries related to government infrastructure or transportation

The key take away is that if the federal government receives a complaint or allegation that your business may not be following Form I-9 protocol, it may lead to an audit or investigation. Even if the allegation is untrue, which will probably be uncovered during the investigation, if during that process there are some common Form I-9 mistakes also found, it can lead to an accumulation of violations which may result in serious consequences such as:

  • punitive fines
  • full or partial loss of workforce
  • a business losing their license

While a single violation may not be enough to ruin a business, multiple violations might. This is a gamble employers cannot afford to take. It is better to follow protocol to the letter and have your ducks in a row should an investigation become a reality.

Five Steps Employers Can Take Toward Compliance

There are some steps employers can take moving forward to help ensure a higher degree of compliance. Five steps employers can take toward compliance are:

  1. Get organized. Know where all of your I-9 forms are kept and make sure they are filed appropriately. Refer to the verbiage on the form itself to be clear on the guidelines and rules for which forms should be filed and which should be destroyed.
  2. Review I-9 Forms for common mistakes. Even unintentional mistakes can be grounds for not being compliant. Some of the most frequent errors typically include blank or incomplete fields or even missing signatures.
  3. Double check form deadlines. The Form I-9 has three main sections, and each has its own set of rules and deadlines. You can be found non-compliant if you have not met the deadlines set forth.
  4. Stay on top of expirations. It is not uncommon for an employee’s citizenship status to expire. In this case, the employer is responsible for getting proof of eligibility before the employee’s citizenship status expires.
  5. Train staff. One the areas most often responsible for an issue with I-9 protocol can be traced back to improper training. Ensure that the staff you have handling the forms understands what proper protocol is and how to best follow it.

What to Do When Achieving Compliance Takes More Time Than You Have

When sitting down to devise a plan to cover all of the above steps, many employers come to the realization that their current method for completing I-9 forms is more time consuming and staff intensive than what they can accommodate. This can be remedied by enlisting the help of digital compliance software.

Some of the ways that digital software can ease the burden of compliance on employers can include:

  • Digitizing the form. This can cut down on the amount of paperwork laying around the office.
  • Minimization of errors. The program is designed to help catch common human error such as fields that are left blank or incomplete.
  • Alerts regarding deadlines. Digital compliance software can also prompt employers to note upcoming deadlines related to the form I-9 so that they do not go unnoticed.
  • Alerts regarding expirations. Some documents required for the Form I-9 have expiration dates. The software is designed to help alert employers of expirations before they happen.

In addition, digital compliance software is set up to provide centralized reporting so employers can view their compliance status at any time, and it can also facilitate the process amidst an audit.

What Lookout Services I-9 Intelligence Software Offers vs. E-Verify

Since the passage of the Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986, employers are required by law to verify the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. However, between the Form I-9 and the E-Verify program, both of which assist with employee verification, it can be confusing for employers to know the best approach for each.

Employees are required to fill out a Form I-9 for employers to verify employment eligibility. However, not all employers are required to use the E-Verify program, unless legally required to do so by special stipulations set forth by the federal government.

Increasingly, employers are turning to digital I-9 compliance software such as that offered by Lookout Services to help minimize errors and bridge the gap between these two compliance requirements. Less errors can leave less room for violations and serious consequences such as financial penalties.

Take a few minutes to review this chart to get a clearer picture of helpful features associated with the digital I-9 compliance software and E-Verify:

What Lookout Services Offers Vs. E-Verify

Feature

Purpose

Lookout Services I-9 Intelligence Software

E-Verify Feature

Integration with an Employer’s HRIS/Recruiting Systems

Data feeds from an employer’s HRIS or recruiting tool can be set up to help populate certain data details in the digital Form I-9, reducing errors, saving time and supporting the compliance monitoring practices of an organization.

X

Not applicable

Validation of input

Information required for the Form I-9 is often detail oriented and number heavy which can allow for multiple instances of human error. The I-9 intelligence features creates validation of input into the system, identifying mistakes before the information is submitted, which can also minimize penalties associated with submitting incomplete data.

X

Not applicable

Minimizing Data Entry

By using a digital Form I-9, the data input on the form will automatically populate relevant E-Verify fields which minimizes the amount of information an employer has to enter. This also typically lowers the opportunity for additional mistakes.

X

Not applicable

Avoid Duplicates

If a company has several human resources employees in charge of onboarding general employees, it is possible for more than one Form I-9 to accidentally be created for the same employee. A duplicate alert feature is designed to identify duplicate information before a form is submitted. Without this service to catch duplicate data, fraud issues and charges could be possible.

X

Not applicable

Auto notices & change history log for all Form I-9 Updates

A digital Form I-9 tool can identify expiring document end dates and send auto alerts before those problems become compliance issues. Additionally, a system will track and record actions required and the dates updates were completed while maintaining compliant I-9 forms.

X

Not applicable

Auto Notices & Tracking E-Verify Actions

Timely auto e-mail notices are distributed to employers about case processing errors and actions related to E-Verify submissions; allows employers to print Tentative Non-Confirmation Notices and perform photo match where required by E-Verify.

X

X

Secured Digital Storage

Digitally stored Form I-9s eliminate the need for voluminous secured storage space, and the time-consuming administrative burden of filing and retrieving these critical documents and their relevant attachments.

X

Not applicable

Printable Forms & Information

Especially during the instance of a mock or real audit, having immediate access to printable Form I-9 information (and any change history) is critical. Effective digital I-9 systems provide printable documents which are accessible at any time.

X

Not applicable

Multiple Location Accessibility

Unique access rights can be set up for companies with multiple locations to have access to all of their employment verification programs sites providing corporate level compliance management oversight and data security monitoring.

X

Not applicable

Peace of mind regarding employment verification

Unique access rights can be set up for companies with multiple locations to have access to all of their employment verification programs sites providing corporate level compliance management oversight and data security monitoring.

X

Not applicable

If you are an employer who would like more peace of mind and are interested in obtaining information on how our digital I-9 compliance software can help you with maintaining Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance, please reach out to Lookout Services today.

How Do You Fill Out an I-9 Form

One of the most frequently asked questions of employers and employees alike is, “How do you fill out an I-9 form?” The question does not yield a short answer, but by learning more about the I-9 form and resources available to help with the form’s completion, the process of filling out the form can be both manageable and efficient.

 

What is an I-9 form?

Before learning how to fill out the Form I-9, it is helpful to know its origins and understand why it is important. The Form I-9 is a byproduct of the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed in 1986. This form was essentially designed by the federal government to verify an individual’s identity and eligibility to work within the United States.

 

Are employees required to fill out the Form I-9?

It is the law for employers to have employees complete a Form I-9. All employees working in the United States are required to fill out a Form I-9 to prove eligibility authorization. As soon as an employer offers a job to an individual, the employee can begin filling out the Form I-9. The employer is responsible for getting the form to the employee and ensuring that the individual properly completes it within the form’s allotted deadlines.

 

How can I get a Form I-9?

Many employers may already have a blank Form I-9 on hand, but it can also generally be found online at the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and may be downloaded to your computer.

 

How do you fill out an I-9 form?

The Form I-9 is comprised of three main sections. Each section requires a different set of information or documentation and has a unique deadline. In order to be compliant, employers must ensure that all three sections are completed properly and on time.

Section 1

The first section of the Form I-9 is generally used for establishing the identity of the employee. For the purpose of this section, employees are typically asked to provide basic information such as:

  • Full name
  • Birth date
  • Contact information
  • Social Security number

In addition to confirming the employee’s identity, this first section of the form is also designed to confirm the employee’s legal eligibility to work in the United States by proving:

  • Citizenship
  • Status of nonresident national of the United States
  • Lawful permanent residency
  • Authorization as an alien to work in the United States

As dictated by the form, this section must be completed by the employee’s first day of employment.

Section 2

Much of the second section of the form is the employer’s responsibility, and it involves the employee’s documentation. The Form I-9 has three lists of documents that are approved to use for this section:

  • List A Documents: The approved documents on this list generally establish an employee’s identity and employment authorization.
  • List B Documents: The approved documents on List B are used for establishing the identity of an employee. If an employee uses a document from List B, presenting a document from List C is also typically required.
  • List C Documents: The documents on this list are used to establish an employee’s work authorization in the United States. If presenting a document from List C, an approved document from List B is also usually required.

This section of the I-9 Form must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of employment. Employers are required to examine each document in good faith for authenticity. It is worth noting that perjury penalties can be assigned for knowingly presenting fraudulent documents.

Section 3

This last section of the form comes into play if an employee has a name change, a renewal of an expiring work authorization, or is a rehire within three years of the date on the original Form I-9. Employers are largely responsible for section three.

 

Additional Resources for Filling Out An I-9 Form

Employers who have specific questions about the Form I-9, questions about how to fill out an I-9 form, or the corresponding deadlines may wish to seek out additional resources to facilitate the process.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Handbook for Employers M-274 may be a good resource for employers. The manual is rather extensive and can typically be downloaded and printed for reference.

A user-friendly option that many employers are increasingly turning to is digital I-9 compliance software.  These software programs are created to guide employers through each step of how to fill out an I-9 form and help minimize common human errors made on the form. Reputable software programs should also be able to interface with the E-Verify program.

 

How Compliance Software Can Make Filling Out I-9 Forms Easier

Digital I-9 compliance software can provide an extra layer of protection and peace of mind for employers. It is specifically designed to be user-friendly, detail oriented, efficient, and can be particularly useful for employers with multiple office locations.

Some of the benefits of working with digital I-9 compliance software can include:

  • A digital and paperless solution
  • Minimization of commonly made human errors such as blank fields, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • Printable checklists for employees and employers to facilitate the Form I-9 process
  • Time-sensitive reminders regarding the deadlines of each section of the form
  • Document tracking to allow employers to update Form I-9 documents before they expire and become a roadblock to compliance
  • Document archiving reminders
  • Centralized reporting for audits

 

By enlisting the help of resources such as digital I-9 compliance software, learning how to fill out an I-9 form can be less stressful for employers and employees.

Q: Do all employees have to fill out a Form I-9 for employers?

A:  Yes, they do.

Q: Is there a program that helps fill out an I-9 form?

A:  Yes, employers may want to consider purchasing digital I-9 compliance software.

Q: Can you fill out an I-9 form electronically?

A:  Digital I-9 compliance software digitizes the Form I-9.

Q: Can the I-9 Form be completed before an employee starts work?

A:  Yes, as long as the employer has extended a job offer.

Q: What happens if an employer doesn’t have an I-9 form for an employee?

A:  The employer can be found not compliant and may be subject to punitive consequences.

I-9 Compliance For Mass Hires

While the spread of the coronavirus is causing some of the highest unemployment rates the nation has seen in years, many essential industries such as grocery retail, delivery services, and pharmacies are ramping up their hiring processes to accommodate the fast onboarding of staff. However, even in this time of crisis, companies must still maintain I-9 compliance for mass hires.

In addition to the increased pace of hiring which can be taxing for human resources departments, employers are now struggling to manage the Form I-9 process with some small changes brought about by these unprecedented times amidst the coronavirus pandemic. If your company is onboarding employees now, it is crucial to be familiar with the I-9 compliance process to protect yourself against future violations.

 

The Most Common Challenges for I-9 Compliance for Mass Hires

Even though some local offices of a company may be actively working, their corporate offices could be working remotely, which can be tricky when it comes to completing a hire that is Form I-9 compliant.  Some of the most common challenges for I-9 compliance for mass hires during coronavirus can include the ability for:

  • Employees and employers to fill out the Form I-9, specifically sections two and three
  • Employees to present employment authorization documents in person, face to face
  • Employers to review authorization documents in person for authenticity

 

Temporary Guidelines For Companies Operating Remotely That Wish To Hire

If an entire company’s workforce is working remotely during this difficult time, as of April 2020, they may have some flexibility regarding the inspection of authorization documents. It may be possible to virtually examine an employee’s authorization documents via fax, web-based conferencing, or a video call and consider them valid if:

  • The entire company is working remotely
  • The remote work policy is documented in house and with the Department of Homeland Security
  • The virtual method of inspection is documented on the Form I-9, specifically on sections two and three
  • A proper in person review of the employee’s authorization documents is done within three days following the expiration of the COVID-19 national emergency and is documented as such

As of April 2020, the virtual review of employment authorization documents is valid only until May 19, 2020 or three days after the national emergency is lifted. It is important to note that the coronavirus national emergency is a somewhat fluid situation, so it is crucial for employers to be certain what the hiring rules are at the time of hire to prevent being assigned noncompliance violations at a later date.

 

 

Temporary Guidelines For Companies Still Operating Regularly In Part That Wish To Hire

The rules are somewhat different for companies that are still operational, in part, with open offices.  While these companies may have flexibility in terms of selecting third-party authorized representatives to review an employee’s authorization documents, documents may not be reviewed virtually.

As of April 2020, employers that have at least one open office must still present employee authorization documents in person. However, an employer may temporarily be allowed to designate a third-party as an official authorized representative to review authorization documents and complete the Form I-9 in person.

Employers should be aware that federal and state guidelines regarding third-party designations may be different. For example, while a federal guideline may allow for a third-party to be designated as seen fit, some states require the third-party to have additional qualifications such as being a public notary.

 

I-9 Compliance Consequences

Despite the unique hiring challenges businesses across the nation are currently facing, the hiring process is to be taken seriously. Hiring companies may still be held liable for I-9 compliance violations made during the coronavirus pandemic, even those committed by a designated third-party.

 

Reducing Compliance Risks For Employers Amidst The Coronavirus Pandemic

While the need may be extreme for many companies to do mass hires to effectively serve the public, they are and will be held to federal I-9 compliance standards. To help combat possible overwhelming pressure on an employer’s human resources department during an already chaotic time, it may be worth enlisting the help of a compliance professional.

Lookout Services has more than twenty years of experience in assisting employers with onboarding employees in regard to proper I-9 compliance. In addition to their professional and knowledgeable staff, Lookout Services also offers digital I-9 compliance software which features the following:

  • Checklists for employees so they can review, in advance, the items needed to complete a Form I-9
  • Checklists for employers to keep each new employee on task in completing the Form I-9
  • A paperless, digital solution
  • Form deadline alerts for employers
  • Minimization of common Form I-9 errors such as blank spaces, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • The ability to track expiring documents and alert employers accordingly before it becomes a compliance issue
  • Assistance with document archiving
  • Centralized reporting
  • An optional interface with the federal E-Verify program complete with auto-population of E-Verify fields
  • Audit assistance such as mass prints of I-9 records and attachments

 

Don’t let a hasty mass hiring process put your company at risk for punitive consequences down the line. Consider a consultation with Lookout Services today to keep your company I-9 compliant through the pandemic and beyond.

How To Stay I-9 Compliant During Pandemic Related Closures

Employers that are hiring in the midst of these uncertain times are struggling with how to stay I-9 compliant during pandemic related closures. Many of these closures are affecting the validity of employee authorization documents and how employers can document special COVID-19 document extensions. By enlisting the help of a company that provides professional I-9 compliance guidance, employers may be better able to navigate the winding road ahead.

 

COVID-19 Temporary Guidelines For Hiring

As some companies continue to hire employees during these pandemic related closures, staying I-9 compliant is proving to be a challenge. To make things even more confusing there can be subtle differences on compliance rules depending on if a company’s entire workforce is working remotely or if at least some of their locations are physically open.

For companies that are entirely working remotely during the pandemic as of April 2020, there are some allowances being made for the virtual inspection of employee authorization documents through platforms such as web-based conferencing, fax, or virtual calls. To be eligible to do so, companies must do the following:

  • Have the entire workforce work remotely
  • Document the remote work policy with the Department of Homeland Security
  • Document the method of virtual inspection on the Form I-9 in sections two and three
  • Review tangible employee authorization documents in person within three days following the expiration of the end of the COVID-19 national emergency (or May 19, 2020) and then properly document this action

Companies that have at least some locations operating as normal, do not have the luxury of virtually inspecting employee authorization documents. However, they may be allowed to have a third-party act as an official authorized representative in reviewing authorization documents. Employers should note that some states may have more stringent rules on third-party designations than the national guidelines.

Whether employers are working remotely or have some physical locations open, it is crucial that they frequently check on government policy during this time of unprecedented change.

 

DMV Closures Affecting Employees Completing I-9 Forms

In this time of national business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, many states have Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that are either closed or offering only limited services.

Unfortunately, this can have an unwelcome trickledown effect on employees attempting to successfully complete a Form I-9 for their employer. The primary problem with limited or no DMV services is that employees may have no other choice but to use an expired driver’s license as a form of identification on an I-9.

To help combat this issue, some states are extending the expiration date of state IDs and/or driver’s licenses.  While helpful, this presents a challenge for employers on how to document this unusual and temporary extension. The following steps may be helpful in this case:

  1. For employees with a driver’s license or state ID that is expired on or after March 1, 2020 in a state that has extended document expiration dates due to COVID-19, these forms of identification may still be acceptable as a List B document.
  2. To protect against I-9 violations, employers must document the acceptance of these documents in Section 2 of the form and enter the term COVID-19 EXT in the Additional Information Field.
  3. For added protection, employers should attach a copy of the DMV’s webpage or other supporting documentation as proof of the document extension.

Employers should check their state’s Motor Vehicle Administration or Department of Motor Vehicle’s website to confirm if they have or have not auto-extended the expiration date of driver’s licenses and state IDs.

 

How DMV Closures or Limited Services May Affect the E-Verify Process

Some companies either voluntarily or by mandate use the federal E-verify system to complement the Form I-9 process. Expired driver’s licenses and state IDs can cause some issues with E-verify as well.

In the case that an employee has an expired driver’s license or state ID that is eligible for an extended expiration date in their state due to COVID-19, employers should enter the actual expiration date of the employee’s document for E-verify purposes.

That said, the coronavirus crisis is causing many standard procedures to be reevaluated on an almost daily basis. Employers should check E-verify’s website daily for frequently asked questions to ensure proper procedure is being followed.

 

How Professional I-9 Compliance Guidance May Be Helpful

Learning how to stay I-9 compliant during pandemic related closures is just one of many issues that employers currently have on their plates, and it is overwhelming for many. Employers may want to consider enlisting the help of a company who specializes in professional I-9 compliance to assist with lightening their load and helping them stay on top of COVID-19 related compliance issues.

Lookout Services has provided I-9 guidance to employers for more than twenty years and offers digital I-9 compliance software that features the following:

  • A digital solution for I-9 compliance
  • Printable checklists for employees and employers to help keep everyone on task for completing the Form I-9 in advance of section deadlines
  • Time sensitive alerts for employers regarding impending deadlines
  • Minimization of frequently made Form I-9 errors such as incomplete fields, blank fields, and missing signatures
  • Document tracking
  • Document archiving assistance

 

Let Lookout Services assist you in learning how to stay I-9 compliant during pandemic related closures.  Call us to set up a virtual consultation today.

What Documents Are Required for Properly Filling out An I-9 Form?

Businesses nationwide are responsible for verifying each employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. While the concept is simple, the steps to being I9 compliant can be more complex. If a company hopes to be compliant with federal law, it is their duty to familiarize themselves with the Form I-9 procedure and the documents required for the I-9.

What is the Form I-9?

I9 ComplianceSince the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, the law requires that employers and employees complete the Form I-9. This legal document of just one page consists of three main sections, each with its own deadlines.

Section 1:  Employees must fill out this section by the first day of employment. Employees must accurately and truthfully complete this section, or they can be charged with perjury. Employers should look over the final version of this section to make sure it is complete in its entirety without any blank fields or missing signatures.

Section 2:  This section of the Form I-9 requires that employees provide employers with one or more forms of identification to prove the employee’s eligibility to work in the United States of America. Once these forms of identification are supplied to the company, employers must verify the employee’s work eligibility by authenticating these same documents required for the I-9 within three days of an employee’s start date.

Section 3:  This last part of the form is generally completed by employers only if an employee’s work authorization expires, the employee has a legal name change, or if the employee is rehired within three years of the original date listed on the Form I-9.

When to Retain a Copy of I-9 Support Documents

It may seem like good sense to make and retain copies of important documents that the federal government requires a business to review, but when to retain a copy of I-9 related documents is a tricky question that can quickly send a business afoul of the law if the business isn’t paying close attention.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has more than quadrupled worksite enforcement investigations in the last year. With the increased enforcement efforts, this is a great time for U.S. businesses to reevaluate the company’s procedures to ensure that it remains in full I-9 compliance. Depending on how the business operates, keeping copies of I-9 supporting documentation may be the right answer – if it is done the right way.  Otherwise, optional document retention could create more problems than are solved.