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Consider switching to electronic I-9s; Congress gives the OK

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Issue: You'll soon be allowed to process and store I-9 forms electronically.

Benefit: Save time and money on I-9 processing, especially if your organization suffers high turnover.

Action: Analyze whether electronic I-9s make sense for your firm. If so, approach IT and top brass with your reasons ... and a plan.  

I-9 rules are finally joining the Internet age.

Current law requires your organization to obtain a handwritten signature from each new hire on an I-9 Form to verify the person's eligibility to work in the United States. And you must retain each I-9 in paper format or on microfilm or microfiche. But Congress passed H.R. 4306 last month, which would let you process and store I-9s electronically if you choose. The president is expected to sign the bill.

The bill would allow you to gather new hires' signatures electronically (say, on an electronic pad, like at the grocery store). Plus, it would let employers convert existing paper I-9 forms into electronic versions for storage purposes. The bill would take effect 180 days after being signed.

"For a small employer with few employees and a few new hires per year, the paper route may be the most logical," says Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), who sponsored the bill. "But in industries with high employee turnover, electronic completion of I-9 forms will save time and money, as well as helping in enforcement."

Advice: Look into whether electronic I-9s would benefit your organization. If so, approach your execs and your IT department with your plan to implement the switchover, including your time and money ROI.

Before converting, audit your current I-9 records, then develop a consistent policy for completing the forms electronically.

Note: The bill wouldn't change long-standing I-9 retention rules. You must retain employees' I-9 forms for three years after their hire dates or for one year after their departure, whichever is later. To read H.R. 4306, visit www.hrpolicy.org/legislation/108/hr4306.pdf.

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