The I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form)  has long been a source of confusion among CA notaries and a source of frustration for those new hires looking for someone to validate it.
Issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the purpose of the I-9 is to document the identity and employment authorization of new employees.

Notaries were first exposed to it when remote hires asked them to complete it for their distant HR departments.

According to the USCIS Handbook for Employers, employers “may designate someone to fill out Forms I-9 for you, such as a personnel officer, foreman, agent or anyone else acting on your behalf, such as a notary public“.  Based on that advice, the HR departments were instructing the new employee to find a notary public to complete it for them.

Most notaries didn’t know how to approach the I-9 because it doesn’t require notarization.  Some postal stores that employ notaries, like the UPS store, instructed their employees not to touch it.  It left the new hire out in the cold, frustrated by their inability to find a notary willing to assist them.

Prior to August 2014, a CA notary could lawfully assist an HR department in the capacity of an “authorized representative” and could complete the I-9 for a new employee.  The notary would examine the identification documents that the new employee presented and complete the form, not as a notary, but as an authorized representative of the employer.  There was no notarization involved.

In August 2014, Debra Bowen, the then current California Secretary of State and responsible for regulating CA notaries, declared that the I-9 was an immigration form, and as such, should only be completed by a licensed and bonded Immigration Consultant.  Only if the notary was also a licensed and bonded Immigration Consultant, could they complete it.

Per the National Notary Association:
UPDATE 8-25-14: Restrictions For California Notaries
“In August 2014, the California Secretary of State’s Notary Public & Special Filings Section clarified with the NNA that California Notaries who are not qualified and bonded as immigration consultants under the Business and Professions Code Sections 22440-22449, may not complete or make the certification on Form I-9, even in a non-notarial capacity. The Secretary’s office considers Form I-9 to be an immigration form. Any California Notary who is not an immigration consultant violates Government Code Section 8223(c).”

Immigration Consultants are few and far between.
When one searches for a Immigration Consultant on the CA Secretary of State Immigration Consultant Surety Bond website, you’ll see that many have lost their licenses and show the status of “Cease and Desist”.  That status occurs when “the immigration consultant failed to comply with the provisions governing the filing and maintenance of immigration consultant bonds or has not satisfactorily passed the background check.”

As a California notary that performs real estate closings and must maintain vigorous annual background screenings to stay compliant with loan signing certifications, I feel that I and other notary signing agents are often more qualified and meet higher background screening standards than that of Immigration Consultants.  I also feel that as notaries, we are in the business of examining identification documents and are uniquely qualified to complete the I-9  Employment Eligibility Verification Form.

It is my hope that now California has elected a new Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, the subject of I-9 verification will be revisited and hopefully, reconsidered.  Limiting I-9 verifications to Immigration Consultants places an unnecessary burden on the new employee to locate a qualified individual when notaries public are widely available and accessible.
Six months after the Secretary of State’s determination, I continue to receive calls about the I-9 and would welcome the opportunity to resume that service for my clients.

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