April 15th, 2020 | Sterling

Bridging the Distance For I-9 Compliance in Remote Hiring

Bridging The Distance For I-9 Compliance in Remote Hiring

In today’s job market, technology innovations and cultural shifts have made remote hiring and telecommuting more common than ever. And that was before the COVID-19 crisis we are now facing.

While recruiters and hiring managers are looking beyond their backyards for talent, employers currently do not have the freedom to send a hiring manager to the remote employee, or fly the employee to headquarters to complete the Form I-9.

In the wake of the pandemic, many employers have embraced telecommuting and the use of virtual staffing to save money that would have been otherwise spent on providing office space for the employee. Most of the hiring process can be managed remotely thanks to technologies like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or FaceTime for video interviews. However, there are still challenges that employers face when hiring remotely.

Long Distance Form I-9 Woes

If you’ve hired a remote employee, you know that completing and processing Form I-9 for remote hires can be a bit of a logistical nightmare – especially if there’s no one from your company near the new employee, and especially today amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not unfair to assume that in this age of technical wizardry, you should be able to simply have your new employee scan and email copies of their identification and employment authorization. Section 2 of Form I-9 clearly states that employers are required to physically examine documents.

New Temporary Flexibility from DHS

Given the current pandemic, however, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made an announcement on March 20, 2020 to provide temporary flexibility in its requirements related to Form I-9 compliance.

According to the announcement, “Employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. However, employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2.”

This provision applies only to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. According to DHS, if there are any 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. On the flip side, if newly hired employees or existing employees are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, DHS will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, employers can designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to complete Section 2. An authorized representative can be any person the employer designates to complete, and sign Form I-9 on their behalf. The employer is liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on the employer’s behalf.

Go Virtual and Onboard Everywhere

Don’t let these challenges deter you from remote hiring. There are mobile and 100% paperless solutions available to help employers manage the Form I-9 process for remote hires. Background screening providers have adapted their services to accommodate the rising trend of telecommuting even before the coronavirus crisis. When you partner with an experienced and technology-enabled provider, you can onboard employees from virtually anywhere.

When evaluating a background screening provider, be sure to ask them what their online capabilities are and take into consideration the candidate experience for remote hires. Look for a provider with an end to end solution that manages U.S. employment eligibility with ease – features and capabilities such as extensive network of notaries, online e-signature technology, and seamless integration with E-Verify so you can submit I-9s immediately. To further streamline your I-9 process, you can also ask about data verification algorithms so that the I-9s are free of errors and automatic purging of Form I-9s based on the one-year and three-year rule.

By transitioning to a provider for your I-9 management, you benefit from hassle-free I-9 compliance for remote hires and an overall reduction in processing time for in-house employees.

During this time of crisis, or at any time, Sterling is here to help you navigate through these challenging times as you work to fulfill your mission.

If you have questions about Form I-9 and new hire form onboarding for remote employees contact us.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.