While a seemingly innocuous document, the ability to produce the employment eligibility verification form I-9 largely determines whether you pass an audit by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If you fail the audit by this increasingly aggressive agency, you can face significant fines and penalties.
And now the form is changing…
The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is currently updating the I-9 and is expected to roll out a longer form sometime during 2013. What does this mean for employers? According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), “The employer’s paperwork, photocopying and retention burden will double, and the potential for loss or separation of the required paperwork will increase.”
Instead of reaching for the Pepto Bismol, how can you prepare for the rollout of the new I-9 so that you can fulfill all the new requirements and protect against a bad audit by the ICE? We recommend electronic forms, document scanning and document management.
Current I-9 Requirements
While it’s important to confirm these policies with your legal department, below are the general guidelines for managing the I-9 and supporting documents:
- Original paper I-9s must be stored separately from the general HR documents
- I-9s must be completed within 3 days of the employee’s hiring date
- I-9s must be kept for three years after the hiring date or one year after termination, whichever is later
- Electronic I-9s are valid methods of storing these documents
During the on-boarding process, I-9 electronic forms or “e-forms” can be used to capture the new hire’s information and electronic signature. This information can be directly populated within your human resource management system (HRM/HRMS). In this way, paper never has a chance to get lost and burn you. By comparison, using editable or “fillable” PDFs only capture the data (no signature) and the information does not integrate with any systems, so someone has to key it in, which can lead to mistakes and inefficiency.
Dealing with Paper
For paper I-9s, W2s and other hiring documents, scanning them allows your staff to have secure and remote access to these electronic records anytime, anywhere especially when uploaded into a document management system that integrates with your HRM/HRMS. The alternative: storing them in filing cabinets (where they can get lost), in boxes in the basement (which can flood) or in off-site storage (where they will likely never be found again). If you are an organization where hiring is done locally, you may want to consider implementing document scanners and capture software at the local offices who can then scan documents into a central document management repository and/or you can have them picked up, scanned and uploaded directly into your system by a document scanning provider.
The Key to Compliance
A document management system, whether it’s software or in the cloud, can simplify all aspects of I-9 compliance:
- Search & Retrieval: allows you to quickly and easily find any document that an auditor needs, which is invaluable when they are on-site
- Remote Access: cloud document management allows employees or authorized third-parties (possibly an auditor) to access electronic documents via standard internet browsers
- Version Control: ensures that the copy you retrieve is always the most current and that employees are prevented from making changes to old versions
- Document Retention: you can ensure all hiring documents are kept for the required time period and automatically purged when they are no longer needed through the use of retention schedules
- HRM Integration: electronic I-9s and other documents can be made available directly within the HRM interface through a simple integration with your document management system
Like the Boy Scouts, Be Prepared
With the new version of the I-9 imminent, it’s a good opportunity to consider how technology can be implemented to simplify both the on-boarding process and responding to an audit. Doing so now allows you to establish a streamlined and more robust process that can be tweaked for use with the new form. We believe it is a better option than implementing new technology at the same time as dealing with the new I-9 or creating new manual, error-prone and paper-based processes. With an aggressive ICE and increasing fines, putting a solid plan in place that takes advantage of e-forms, document scanning and document management has never been more important.