The Federal Register recently published a final rule amending Form I-9 compliance regulations. This final rule comes with five provisions that determine whether an I-9 system is legal and valid. While meeting these minimum requirements will help ensure compliance, many electronic I-9 solutions provide additional features for further protection from penalties.
According to federal guidelines, a Form I-9 program must meet the following five criteria:
1. Time-tracking tools
“Employers must complete the I-9 form within 3 business days.”
To remain on-time, look for solutions with automated e-mail reminders for when a form is late, and a dashboard that shows new hire start dates. If the solution has on-demand reporting, employers can also print a system-wide report of incomplete I-9 forms and play catch-up.
2. Paper and electronic form support
“Employers may use paper, electronic systems, or a combination of paper and electronic systems.”
Look for a vendor solution that leverages imaging to support paper and electronic I-9 documentation. If an employer can scan paper forms into the system as PDF files, it will allow them to continue using a paper process in remote locations, where the internet is not reliable and to upload historical hard copy I-9s. Imaging technology also allows all documents, whether paper or digital, to be included in electronic verification, reporting and e-mail alerts.
“Employers may change electronic storage systems as long as the systems meet the performance requirements of the regulations.”
A good I-9 solution will allow companies to remain flexible. Look for solutions with universal database and document formats that integrate seamlessly with other in-house or vendor solutions. A flexible system enables companies to transfer historical documents into a new database, so the documentation can be checked for accuracy and completion, and included in reports. This attribute also allows companies to switch to other vendors or build in-house custom solutions in the future.
4. Audit trail documentation
“Employers need to retain audit trails for when the I-9 is created, completed, updated, modified, altered, or corrected.”
The final rule says that an employer needs to have an audit trail for each form. When choosing an electronic I-9 solution, look for the ability to change electronic documents and record those changes in an easy-to-trace audit trail.
5. Built in process for employee requests
“Employers may provide or transmit a confirmation of an I-9 transaction, but are not required to do so unless the employee requests a copy.”
There is not a requirement to send every employee a copy of their I-9, but if an employee requests a copy the new rule requires the employer to provide one. Choose an electronic solution that includes a built-in process for issuing employees copies of their forms as printable PDF documents.
Four Features that Extend Beyond the Government Requirements
I-9 solution providers that merely meet federal requirements may only offer the bare minimum in protecting their clients against compliance violations. To be better prepared for an audit and avoid the risk of fines, consider the additional four requirements of an electronic I-9 solution below that extend beyond the government regulations and provide enhanced employer protection.
1. Proven Audit Experience
Find a solution that’s trusted by organizations who have successfully been through an audit. Ask the solution vendor if any of their clients have completed an audit with common auditors like the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). To obtain the best protection, choose a solution that has a proven track record of withstanding audits with maximum compliance and minimal penalties.
2. Leader in Electronic Signature Security
If there is any question as to whether the employee actually signed section one of the form, the entire form will likely be seen as invalid and out of compliance by the federal government. Look for a solution provider that has delivered electronic I-9 solutions since 2004, when the electronic signature was approved by the federal government. These industry leaders will have the most experience in providing effective solutions for ensuring the accuracy of the electronic signature.
3. E-Verify Agent Designation
E-Verify is an electronic database that verifies I-9 information through matching, and confirms for the employer that the person is legally authorized to work in the U.S. The E-Verify system has an abundance of federal rules and regulations, which employers must comply with. Vendors authorized by the government as designated E-Verify agents can help employers remain compliant in their access of the system.
If an employer does not use an authorized vendor, they are more likely to be found noncompliant in their use of the E-Verify system. Noncompliance can result in a fine and exclusion from soliciting state and federal contracts. Additionally, if an employer uses the E-Verify system incorrectly and it prohibits an eligible employee from working, that worker may sue the employer.
4. On-demand reporting
A solution with on-demand reporting will save companies time by allowing them to access data at any time in custom-configured reports. In the event of an audit, this feature is invaluable for building the specific reports auditors need. On-demand reporting will also allow companies to export all their data into a flat file so they can see the entire program in one view and check for compliance.
An electronic I-9 solution provides many benefits beyond the minimum requirements provided by the federal government. These systems can integrate historical paper I-9 forms and help keep your hiring practices in compliance with federal laws while minimizing human resources administration.
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