Can My Employees Fill Out the I-9 Form Remotely? The Employer’s Guide to Using E-Verify for Remote Employees

Paulette Stout

You probably know there’s been some debate on how to handle I-9 forms now that remote work has become even more common post-pandemic. However, what’s not up for debate is the need to follow the federally mandated E-Verify process. Here’s what employers need to know about E-Verify and filling out the I-9 form remotely. 

What’s the I-9 form again?

Need a quick refresher? The I-9 form is a critical part of the onboarding process. When you bring on a new employee, they are required to fill out an I-9 form in order to prove their identity and their eligibility to work with the United States. Even though the form must be filled out by the employee, the employer is ultimately accountable for making sure the form is completed. 

What is E-Verify?

E-verify is an online verification system used by employers to confirm worker employment eligibility. Run by the US government, the system compares employee I-9 form responses to records available from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Why must employers use E-Verify?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to verify the identity of new employees and check that they are eligible to work in the United States. Failure to comply can lead to employers being held personally liable and potentially receiving criminal and civil fines for non-compliance. 

How do organizations enroll?

To enroll in E-Verify, organizations must set up a Point of Contact account at e-verify.gov by following the instructions. After completing the required information, employers must review and agree to the Memorandum of Understanding and then print a copy for their records.

Using E-Verify step-by-step

Using E-Verify begins when a business enters the information from an employee I-9 form into the E-Verify online portal. This officially opens a case and should happen no later than the third business day after work commences. If the employee presents government-issued photo identification, such as a passport, a Permanent Resident Card, or an Employment Authorization document, the system will prompt the employer to compare the photographs. Once entered, the system will return one of six results:

  • Employment Authorized: All records will match and the employment will be authorized
  • E-Verity Needs More Time: The case requires further investigation by the Department of Homeland Security
  • Tentative Nonconfirmation (Mismatch): Records did not match and more action is required.
  • Case in Continuance: This result means the employee has contacted either a DHS or SSA field office, and more time is needed to verify employment. 
  • Close Case and Resubmit: Either DHS or SSA has requested that the original case be closed and a new case be opened for the employee. 
  • Final Nonconfirmation:  E-Verify can not confirm eligibility and closes the case, or the timeline for case handling has expired. 

Is there a cost to employers who use E-Verify?

No, it is free for employers to use E-Verify. 

How long do results take when using E-Verify?

Results are delivered in as fast as three to five seconds. However, depending on the results outlined above, more action may be required by the employee. If this happens, the timeline is extended accordingly. 

How long must employers keep employee I-9 forms?

Organizations must retain completed I-9 forms for as long as a worker is employed. Once employment ends, organizations must retain the paperwork for three years after the date of hire or one year after employment terminates, whichever is later. 

If an employee is rehired, is a new I-9 necessary?

When an employee is rehired within three years of completing the original I-9, a new form is not necessary. Employers can merely indicate the new rehire date on Supplement B of the form. The only exception is if a new version of the I-9 form has been issued. Then a new form will be necessary.

State laws

States have designated their own E-Verify requirements. Employers must check to see what’s required in the states where they operate. State requirements fall into four categories: 1) voluntary, 2) required for public employees, 3) required for all employers, 4) depends on local municipality. 

The lists below summarize where each US state currently falls in terms of E-Verify regulations:

States where E-Verify is voluntary

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • Vermont

States where E-Verify is required for public employees only

  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington

States where E-Verify is required for all businesses

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah

States where E-Verify usage depends on local municipality requirements

  • New York
  • Oregon

Conclusion

All employers are required to verify the employment eligibility of new workers within a few days of their hiring. To do this, form I-9 information is entered into E-Verify, the official online process for verifying employee identity and eligibility. Once initiated, worker information is compared to information kept on file by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. E-Verify results can take minutes but may take longer if additional information is required to close the case. 

State rules vary about whether E-Verify is voluntary, required for certain employers, required for all employers, or must follow local jurisdiction rules. It’s up to employers to know the requirements of the jurisdictions where they operate. Using E-Verify is critically important because employers can receive civil and criminal fines and be held personally liable for non-compliance. But with a straightforward system, most employers find the process quick and easy to follow. 

Paulette Stout Author of her debut novel, Love, Only Better, Paulette Stout is the gold-star wordsmith and owner of her content marketing agency, Media Goddess Inc., where she crafts content for her list of global clients. Prior to MGI, Paulette led content and design teams at several tech companies, and one educational publisher where her elimination of the Oxford comma caused a near riot. You can usually find Paulette rearranging words into pleasing patterns while wearing grammar t-shirts. Connect with Paulette on Facebook and Instagram at @paulettestoutauthor and on Twitter at @StoutContent.
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