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Can I Store My I-9 Forms Electronically?

HR Question:

I have heard of other employers storing all of their I-9’s electronically, rather than in paper form. Is that acceptable? Is there anything I need to know before moving to store my I-9 Forms electronically?

HR Answer:

Yes, many employers are moving to the electronic completion and storage of their employees’ I-9 Forms. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you may maintain the forms either electronically or on paper, with a few requirements to keep in mind.

If you are storing them offsite, you must be able to produce the documents within 3 days of the request from an auditor. If you decide to maintain your records electronically, you have the option of using an online payroll provider which should allow the employees to complete the form online and store it. Alternatively, you can have employees complete the hard copy paper form and then scan and upload the original signed form. Either option is an acceptable alternative for electronic storage. The paper form can then be destroyed once it has been properly stored electronically.

Regarding the documents that are provided as “proof” for the I-9, employers are not required to create or attach photocopies of documentation submitted to satisfy the Form I-9 requirements during the employment eligibility verification process, but the practice is permissible.  If you choose to make photocopies of the documents, make sure that you do it for ALL employees to avoid any potential claims of discrimination.

If you are using an electronic system, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) require you to make sure the system you are using can meet the following requirements:

  • It has controls that ensure the system’s integrity, accuracy, and reliability;
  • It has controls that can prevent and detect the unauthorized or accidental creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of, or deterioration of an electronically completed or stored Form I-9, including the electronic signature if used;
  • You have an inspection and quality assurance program in place that regularly evaluates the system and includes periodic checks of electronically stored Form I-9’s, including the electronic signature if used;
  • You have an indexing system that allows users to identify and retrieve records maintained in the system; and
  • The system has the ability to reproduce legible and readable paper copies.

In addition, you are required to document the process and procedures used for collecting and maintaining the documents. You can find additional details on the requirements for storing I-9’s electronically on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Finally, keep in mind that you must have a secure IT system in place. The system should be able to audit who accessed the files and/or edited them, as well as ensure that only authorized individuals have access to the records. You must also have a system in place that ensures the information is securely backed up in the event of a system crash.

Storing your I-9’s electronically can be a wonderful solution for these documents – just be sure you have a process in place with the appropriate safeguards and systems. The USCIS warns us that if the records cannot be retrieved during an audit, even if there is proof of a system crash, you will be in violation.

Thanks to Patti Dunham, MBA, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP for contributing this edition of our HR Question of the Week!

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