With more employers moving to digital personnel files, there is some concern about whether certain documents can be stored electronically or if the original document is necessary.  Generally, with the passage of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) by most states, e-signatures are given the same force and validity as traditional “wet” signatures.

Given the strict rules employers must comply with in completing and maintaining the Forms I-9 for employees, can employers implement an e-signature solution for the I-9 and can the I-9 be stored electronically?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides that employers can implement electronic signatures on the Form I-9:

Q.  How can I add an electronic signature field to Form I-9?

A.  The Form I-9 posted to the USCIS website does not currently have an electronic signature function and must remain locked to ensure its integrity. Employers who wish to implement an electronic Form I-9 with an electronic signature function may re-create a Form I-9 that includes such a function, as long as the form looks the same and contains all the data elements and language as the Form I-9 posted to the USCIS website. See 8 CFR 274a.2 (a)(2). The electronic Form I-9, which includes any electronic signature function an employer implements, and the system used to generate and store it must comply with regulations found at 8 CFR 274a.2 (e)-(i). See pages 23-26 of the Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 for more information.

In addition, employers may store the Forms I-9 electronically if certain requirements are met:

Employers may use a paper system, an electronic system or a combination of paper and electronic systems to store Forms I-9. An electronic storage system must:

Include controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy and reliability of the electronic storage system.

Include controls to detect and prevent the unauthorized or accidental creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of or deterioration of an electronically stored Form I-9, including the electronic signature, if used.

Include controls to ensure an audit trail so that any alteration or change to the form since its creation is electronically stored and can be accessed by an appropriate government agency inspecting the forms.

Include an inspection and quality assurance program that regularly evaluates the electronic generation or storage system, and includes periodic checks of electronically stored Forms I-9, including the electronic signature, if used.

Include a detailed index of all data so that any particular record can be accessed immediately.Produce a high degree of legibility and readability when displayed on a video display terminal or reproduced on paper.