Learning & Development

Q&A: Looking at Remote Workers and Employment Authorization

Yesterday we heard from Holly Jones on how the recent administration’s aggressive enforcement of immigration policies might influence I-9s and other authorizations for remote workers. Today we’ll look into who else can serve as an authorized member, plus the bottom line.
By Holly Jones

Who else can serve as an authorized representative? Can we ask the employee’s family member?

Though the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not specifically prohibit an employee’s family member from serving as an authorized representative, as a practical matter it’s not a good idea.

Recall that the authorized representative serves as an agent of the employer, which means the employer is still responsible for the proper completion of the form. If the representative makes a mistake, the employer is liable.
So, though it may be convenient for an employee’s family member to serve as an authorized representative, the family member is not impartial and may even have incentive to lie on behalf of the employee’s best interests in obtaining employment verification (rather than serving the employer’s best interest of having the verification process completed accurately and in good faith.)
With this said, theoretically anyone can be an authorized representative (excepting those California notaries public, as discussed in yesterday’s Advisor). An organization is not required to have any formal contract or agreement with a person who serves as an authorized representative, nor is the representative required to have any special training or certification.
However, because the authorized representative is acting as an agent for you (the employer), then it is imperative that the representative be someone you can trust to use judgment on behalf of the employer. As noted above, it is also a good idea for this person to be someone who is familiar with the I-9 process and document verification.

Bottom Line

If this all seems a bit complicated and confusing, just keep the usual HR rule of thumb in mind—be consistent.
Because of the increase in risk of liability—both in increased fines and enforcement initiatives—employers who regularly hire remote workers should simply ensure that those employees’ I-9s are completed with the same level of care that would be taken if the workers were in-house.
Depending on your operations, this may mean the use of a third-party I-9 vendor that provides verification services across the United States, the use of other qualified, authorized representatives in your new hires’ locations, or arranging for your new hires to come to the company headquarters for a tour, introduction, and onboarding.