Working Around the In-Person I-9 Requirement with the COVID-19 outbreak
Despite the spread of COVID-19 halting a lot of businesses, companies like Amazon and grocers such as Albertsons, Kroger, and Raley’s are hiring.
How can they and any other businesses that have to operate – and continue to hire – during the COVID-19 pandemic meet the I-9 in-person requirement? Every paid employee in the United States is required to have a correctly filled I-9 form which legally requires the new employee to prove work eligibility by physically presenting the original documents as proof: their US passport, or combination of driver’s license and Social Security card, et cetera.
New employees need the job and the income now more than ever, so they can’t wait for the virus to pass by.
In an era of social distancing, when we need to be minimizing human-to-human contact, there are technology solutions available that can help employers stay on track with hiring needs while still maintaining the highest standards when it comes to the safety of both existing and new employees.
Innovation provides a workaround
“We’ve created several workarounds for the I-9 form predicament.” says Julie Pearl, who led creation of the Tracker I-9 Compliance solution when she was Chair of Tracker Corp before it was acquired by Mitratech.
“With our award-winning Tracker I-9 Complete’s mobile functionality,” she says, “any new hire can complete the task within 3-5 minutes of help from a neighbor, the local grocer, Starbucks barista, barber, banker, clergy, bus or Uber driver. All they need to do is just find anyone over 18 who is nearby the employee and not a family member. These are the only legal requirements for the person who completes section 2 of the I-9 form – the one that requires the showing of the ID in person- because of a provision that allows employers to designate an authorized representative.”
That neighbor or other helper simply needs a mobile phone where they can receive a secure link to fill in the ID name and expiration date. They may also take a photo of the ID which will instantly upload to Tracker’s secure servers and will not be stored on the mobile device – so doesn’t need to be deleted after the process is completed.
Online and real-world help for I-9 compliance concerns
If the neighbor or helper is nervous about doing it wrong, Tracker Corp has an online I-9 Help Center staffed by immigration professionals, in collaboration with Pearl Law Group, one of the nation’s largest and highest-ranked immigration firms. The new employee can connect – with phone and video options – just for the time needed to ensure that the I-9 Section 2 process is done correctly. But the vast majority of people don’t need any help: systems like Tracker I-9 catch and prevent errors with hundreds of business logic rules encoded, so you don’t have to be an expert to get it right.
In the case of employees who may not have access to someone who can help them complete this form, Tracker Corp has partnered with a nationwide mobile notary network and an employment services company that are within a short drive of 95% of the US working population.
The employee can select these options, all with the HR team at being the company fully informed in real time about the status of the process. The employer’s HR team has real-time access to view and monitor these actions, and to take the next steps remotely – including submission to E-Verify (the federal system that is required in many states).
Navigating the I-9 minefield
I-9 compliance has become a bigger and bigger minefield over the past 3 years. The current administration has allocated $7.6 Billion to ICE, and consequently, I-9 audits are up over tenfold. And even amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, ICE audits are continuing to spike. The penalty for each innocent mistake can be up to $2,300, and traditional methods of filling out and managing paper I-9s produce errors in over 70% of forms.
Starting Friday, May 1, 2020, employers must use a new version of Form I-9 for Employment Verification Eligibility, which is required for new hires and re-verifications.
The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted a lot of business functions, but hiring still needs to continue. By picking the right technology solution, a company will find it’s not only efficient but also fulfills legal and compliance requirements, all while helping to protect the health and well-being of all involved.