In 2004, in an effort to enable organizations to manage the I-9 process electronically, thereby improving efficiency, effectiveness and accuracy, Congress passed legislation that allowed for electronic signature and electronic storage of I-9 forms.
This legislation paved the way for the use of electronic I-9 management solutions. The bill was stunningly simple, only a half-page document, but the regulatory agencies that interpret and enforce the law have since issued complex regulations and statutes, all of which went into effect August 2010. These regulations can be complicated, confusing and even contradictory, but employers must understand these requirements to help ensure compliance and avoid severe penalties and high fines.
A recent article in Workforce Management addresses many of the requirements of a compliant electronic I-9 management system under the new regulations. Whether organizations choose to adopt an electronic solution or a manual one, employers must ensure proper I-9 management processes. However, manual I-9 processes can make compliance difficult.
A complete electronic I-9 management solution can offer the easiest path to compliance as long as the solution meets all USCIS Form I-9 requirements and those included in the August 2010 regulation update. There are a few important elements that employers must understand in electronically managed I-9 solutions under the new regulations including:
1. Electronic Storage
Organizations can benefit from the new regulations with an online process that relies on electronic I-9 forms, which eliminate the need to store paper copies or scanning and uploading. An electronic solution also eliminates the possibility of illegible writing and minimizes errors, thus streamlining employment eligibility verifications. Under the new regulations, companies are also permitted to scan and store legible copies of I-9 forms, or use a combination of electronic and paper.
As part of the new electronic storage process, the storage solution must incorporate reasonable controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy and reliability of stored documents. It must also include controls to prevent the unauthorized or accidental creation, alteration or deletion of stored documents. The solution must also have indexing functionality, inspection procedures and have a way to produce legible paper copies.
Documentation that describes the processes and safeguards in place is critical in the event of an audit, so any electronic solution implemented must include stringent controls and the appropriate documentation describing them.
2. Data Security
The data used and stored in the I-9 management solution are highly confidential and must be protected through advanced data security technologies. The statute requires that trained authorized personnel have access to the system, that the system have backup and recovery features to prevent data loss or alteration and that the employer can produce documentation detailing the security processes and technologies in place.
Best practices also dictate that the solution incorporates stringent security and privacy measures including complex passwords, forced password changes on a routine basis and data encryption. It’s important that organizations confirm their solution provider has extensive experience in data security and privacy.
3. Electronic Signatures
When an employee signs the I-9 form electronically, the system must record the time, date and identity of the individual signing and include an attestation from the individual.
Electronic signature methods can include capturing the user’s IP address, “Click to accept” features, image of mouse signature, social security number, email address, and more. The I-9 management solution provider must be able to provide documentation for auditors describing the process and safeguards in place.
4. Audit Trails
This is a critical and often-overlooked aspect in an effective electronic I-9 management solution. The audit trail enables the organization or auditor to track every change made to a record and identify who made the change to help ensure data integrity and accuracy. Advanced audit trail technology is important for data management as well as for use in a regulatory review.
5. Automated Compliance Features and Audit Support
When evaluating an electronic I-9 management solution, it’s important to look for a few key features and capabilities that can make the difference between a process that complies with regulations and a system that’s vulnerable to liabilities and fines.
Some solutions include automated compliance features and smart forms that guide users through the online form completion and documentation procedures to help ensure that every line is filled in properly and every update is completed in a timely fashion.
In addition, it’s critical to make sure that the solution has the capability to produce mass forms and documentation to meet any auditor request and it’s ideal if the provider has been through many successful electronic audits. These kinds of technologies help prevent mistakes that could result in costly penalties.
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Practical Steps to Help Ensure Form I-9 Compliance