Online teaching jobs are often remote positions. As with any remote job, the I-9 form and notary can become difficult, especially in states where notaries are not allowed to sign an I-9. When schools require an I-9 be notarized, it can leave employees – and employers – stuck and getting creative with their solutions. Here are some ways schools and online professors have gotten past the run-around.
If you have been hired in the past year, you may have noticed that most schools require you to fill out and have signed an I-9 form – and get it notarized. This used to be the case only for employees, but many schools are asking contracts to fill the form out as well. No big deal you think – you are a US Citizen, have a social security card and the right to work in the US. You print the paper, think “just another form”, and then head to your nearest notary – only to be told “we don’t do that”. A dozen notaries later, you tell HR you’ve been unsuccessful, and hope they don’t think the worst.
The form, first introduced in 1987, has become troublesome for human resources departments working with candidates in different states and companies hiring remote employees. The most current version according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website is the Rev. 03/18/13N.
According to the same website, employees are required to complete the I-9 form on their first day of employment or before their first day of hire. Employees must provide their full legal name, other names used, address, date of birth, US citizenship status, Alien Registration/USCIS or Form I-94 Admission number and the date it expires, signature and dates. Employees may provide social security number, email address and phone number, but don’t be surprised if an HR employee rejects your I-9 without this information. In a face-to-face setting, the HR representative signs the form, and the employer reviews the information, notes relevant expiration dates, and review any documents presented for identification verification. It is that last part – documents presented for identification verification – that can cause trouble for remote employees.
Human Resources departments, unable to physically see the documents presented, must rely on an Authorized Representative, which is often a Notary Public, to complete these forms in place of an HR representative. The process also requires the Notary to verify that he or she saw the documents presented as verification and believed them to be legitimate. The American Society of Notaries however warns notaries that this is an unauthorized notarization, or “worse, notarization of one’s own signature.” The website notes that the I-9 allows an employer to certify identification documents and indicate the employee began work on a particular day. Notaries are often asked to be the Authorized Representative for remote employees, although the employer may designate anyone it chooses to be an Authorized Representative.
The site further notes, “Many employers ask notaries serving as their Authorized Representative to affix their notarial seal to the certification section of the Form I-9. Never do this: the Form I-9 does not require an authorized notarial act of any kind…” and indicates that perhaps worse, the statement indicating “I attest that I am a Notary Public in good standing...” and “I attest that I agree to act as Authorized Representative for…” is actually notarizing one owns signature, which is prohibited in all states. Ugh!
The website LawLogix has a blog entry written about the topic, and notes that the I-9 Section 2 attestation on behalf of the employer means the Representative must be able to see the person in the flesh and review the original documents and believe them to be genuine on their face.
Some states, such as California, have very specific rules for a Notary Public. In California, a Notary Public may not complete or make the certification on any I-9 form, even in a non-notarial capacity, as the Secretary of State considers Form I-9 to be an immigration form and a California Notary who is not an immigration consultant violates Government Code (it requires a separate background check). Some states – and some concerned notaries - look as though they will follow California’s path. Notaries have told me personally that they cannot validate what is a legitimate social security card versus a fake one, and therefore will not sign any I-9s as an Authorized Representative or a Notary Public – in both California and New York City.
So that has left a lot of employees, contractors and human resource managers in a conundrum – how to get the I-9 filled out to meet requirements and documents certified as original on their face.
Here are some tips from experts, other educators and my own experiences with HR departments that wanted to solve the Authorized Representative issue and get an I-9 signed and notarized:
- Some schools are allowing anyone who works in HR at any company to be an Authorized Representative for them by making a phone call. This means you’d need to arrange signing in front of another HR person at another company, and probably means calling in a favor. It also means the school would need to accept the I-9 without a notary seal (just as would occur if you signed the form in person in front of the employer)
- The latest I-9 form does not ask a Notary to affix a seal to the form, and many notaries are adding their own statements with what they will attest to, satisfying some schools.
- Some schools are taking copies of old I-9 forms when notaries were more willing to notarize them, indicating if the documents have not expired the forms are still good to use.
- Some universities have allowed a Notary Public to stamp a copy of official documents and write “physically seen and have no reason to believe they are not legitimate” on the paper.
- Universities are getting creative using multimedia, and using Skype or FaceTime to have the employee hold up their documents while allowing the remote HR manager to visibly see the documents and take screenshots of the person and the photo ID.
- Many employees are simply calling around many notaries to find one willing to sign, or using a traveling notary or an attorney.
- Some banks, particularly small banks that know their customer, have been known to sign as an Authorized Representative, and even notarize the forms. 8. This may seem extreme, but some of our clients have traveled to neighboring states where laws for a notary as not as strict.
Companies have considered moving to using the Guardian I-9 or E-Verify System, but it is quite expensive.
Human Resources departments are often unaware that some states have stricter rules governing Notary Public’s. Sometimes it takes educating the HR department and providing them with alternatives to solve the problem and see how they feel it is best to handle the I-9 form .
I am not an attorney, so I am just sharing my own observations and experiences. If you have any questions, consult an attorney - or leave a comment below and we will ask attorneys to answer your questions!
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Contact the author Dr. Dani Babb