My office is located in San Francisco and I am hiring an employee who will work remotely in San Diego. Can I contract with a notary public to complete the Form I-9 for this employee?
Although you can designate an authorized representative to complete the Form I-9 on your behalf, you can use a California notary public to do so only if the notary is also an immigration consultant registered with the California Secretary of State.
When you hire a remote employee, you may not be physically present with the employee and able to complete the Form I-9. In that case, you can designate an authorized representative to meet with the employee, inspect the employment eligibility documents presented by the employee and complete Section 2 of the Form I-9 on your behalf.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) explains how to do so in its Handbook for Employers:
You may designate or contract with someone such as a personnel officer, foreman, agent, or anyone else acting on your behalf, including a notary public, to complete Section 2. Note that anyone else who completes Form I-9 on your behalf must carry out full Form I-9 responsibilities. It is not acceptable for the designated person to physically examine the employee’s employment authorization and identity documents, and leave Section 2 for you to complete. You are liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on your behalf.
(USCIS Handbook for Employers, Chapter 4.0.)
Although the USCIS allows an employer to designate a notary public as an authorized representative, California law prohibits a notary public from completing Forms I-9 unless the notary public also is a registered immigration consultant.
Under California law, the only individuals who can assist clients with completing immigration forms (such as the Form I-9) are licensed attorneys, individuals authorized under federal law to provide immigration services, and individuals qualified and bonded as an immigration consultant under California law (Business & Professions Code, Sections 22440, 22441).
A notary public who is not qualified and bonded as an immigration consultant is prohibited from completing immigration forms for his or her clients (Government Code, Section 8223 (c)).
If you need to remotely hire an employee in California, you can designate an authorized representative to meet with the employee, inspect the documents provided by the employee and complete Section 2 of the Form I-9 on your behalf.
If you contract with a notary public to do so, however, the person also must be an immigration consultant. If not, the notary public is prohibited from completing the Form I-9 on your behalf and you will have to find another representative to complete the form.
If you designate a representative to complete the Form I-9, make sure that person understands what he/she needs to do to complete the Form I-9. As the employer, you will be liable for any violations committed by the representative when completing the Form I-9.
Employers with questions about the Form I-9 and verifying eligibility to work can find more information in the HR Library on HRCalifornia.com.
The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.