Electronically Signing I-9 Forms after Physical Document Examination

Today’s hybrid workforce expects to easily access applications, tools and data on any device from wherever they’re working. The same applies to the hiring process: candidates expect digital offer letters and a convenient, flexible onboarding experience.

Extending an offer using e-signature to secure a candidate is just the start of an often lengthy onboarding process. The USCIS Form I-9—used to verify identity and employment authorization—is mandatory for onboarding, so it’s unsurprisingly one of the most popular documents used by HR departments. 

Overview of the I-9 form process

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) require that documents used to verify identity as part of the I-9 process must be physically inspected. While that requirement was waived temporarily during the pandemic, ICE recently announced that the Form I-9 exception period beginning in March 2020 would end on July 31, 2023. They gave employers until August 30, 2023, to physically re-inspect documents for employees hired during that time while also allowing an authorized representative to be designated to ease the administrative burden for companies and remote employees.

Step 1: Employee completes Section 1 of Form I-9 by attesting their employment authorization and presenting their acceptable documents to their employer (or authorized representative) as evidence of identity and employment authorization.

Step 2: The employer (or authorized representative) must physically examine these documents to determine if they are true and genuine to the employee. They record the document information into Section 2, provide copies of what was presented and sign to attest that they’ve completed this review.

Step 3: If the employer is registered as an E-Verify participant, there are some requirements on the form to ensure E-Verify system compliance. If using E-Verify, the form can be sent through the E-Verify system to produce an “Employment Authorized” note. 

A digital solution can help expedite Form I-9 compliance

As shown in Step 1, the I-9 form requires employees to provide their employers with acceptable documentation—such as passports or driver’s licenses—to verify their identity and employment authorization. While the new federal guidelines require identity documentation to be physically inspected, it’s important to note that electronic signatures are still legally valid when signing the completed form. The return to in-person policy only applies to the inspection and physical verification of identity documents. Once verified, the form can be signed electronically.

Docusign eSignature includes the 2023 I-9 template, so once the physical ID is verified in person, the employee can sign the form electronically.

Digitizing onboarding steps like signing documents removes friction and frustration for new hires and even existing employees who require document reauthorization. Read our HR Guide to Digital Hiring and Onboarding eBook to learn more.

This blog post is offered for general information purposes only. It does not constitute, and is not a substitute for, legal advice