Form I-9s For Online and Remote Workers – A Growing Risk For Employers Who Hire Sight Unseen

By Leslie Zieren, Esq.

Employers must verify the employment authorization and identity of new employees to determine employment eligibility. This requires completion of a Form I-9 for every new employee.

The certification reads as follows:

I attest, under penalty of perjury, that (1) I have examined the document(s) presented by the above-named employee, (2) the above-listed documents(s) appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee named, and (3) to the best of my knowledge the employee is authorized to work in the United States.

By signing and dating the form, the employer or an “authorized representative” attests to physically examining the documents provided. Note that this is not a function than can be performed online.

Remote hires present a challenge. If new workers are hired at worksites far from the employer’s headquarters, who is going to serve as the “authorized representative” who can complete the Form I-9 and attest on behalf of the employer?

An employer may designate someone else to be an authorized representative, like a personnel officer, foreman, agent, or a third party like a notary public to complete the Form I-9. However, the employer remains liable for any violations in connection with the process.

To help curb exposure, make certain that the person you authorize is trained on the I-9 process, requirements, and the liability risk. It is best not to designate the new employee’s spouse, for example, to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Choose someone who would not personally benefit from the employment of a worker.

It is a best practice to designate the authorized representative in writing, and have that person sign the writing as well, to indicate his or her agreement to perform the necessary function.

Related Links

Form I-9 (PDF)

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