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January 9, 2011

Form I-9 According to Ken

Filed under: Ken Edelstein — Tags: , , , — admin @ 10:50 am

Form I-9
I attest, under penalty of perjury, that (1) I have examined the document(s) presented by the above-named employee, (2) the above-listed document(s) appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee named, and (3) to the best of my knowledge the employee is authorized to work in the United States.

That is the form that notaries are being asked to sign. This presents a bunch of problems to me. First, notaries in New York County are prohibited by the County Clerk from “certifying” anything. That term is reserved for government officials and Registrars of educational institutions to “certify” the original and duplicate copies that they issue. I’m not supposed to say (in the notary section) “I certify that before me appeared…..” – certify & certification is a no no.

Examined and appear to be genuine – that’s OK. We do that when we inspect ID to notarize, it’s a routine part of the job. But here there is a subtle difference. I am being asked to comment specifically on the ID, not the identity of the person signing. That is a big change to me. I really don’t like “going on record” as to the quality or “genuineness” of the documents. Sure, it does not ask me to commit that they are genuine, only that they appear to be genuine. Small difference.

Last comes the “deal breaker”. “… to the best of my knowledge the employee is authorized to work in the United States”. Well, I have NO such knowledge either way. On what basis do I make such a statement? “Well, your Honor, being that I had no knowledge, then to the best of my knowledge….” That might fall flat. Worst case: based on MY statement the person obtains a job in a “sensitive” position and does real harm. Then the witch hunt starts; guess who will be asked why I “approved” the terrorist who disabled a large portion of the power grid?

It appears the entire I-9 process is designed to establish “responsible parties” for when the “you know what” hits the fan. ONLY the government, with its vast resources is qualified to determine the eligibility for working in the US; NOT a humble notary public looking at a selection of user submitted documents. Perhaps there are “items of record” that are not shown that are very relevant to the issue at hand. The State of Texas cautions notaries about form I-9.

This subject has been covered several times on the 123notary.com forum. I have been told that I don’t know what I am talking about not having taken the training. True enough. But, I don’t think any training will change the statements I am asked to sign. They are the reason that, other than notarizing the applicant’s signature; I will not touch an I-9. In a similar manner I have been asked to notarize a Will. NY law requires an attorney for that function. One attorney wanted to “guide me” over the phone. Nope, it’s MY signature and no other that would be in the notary section. Point being: signed documents have to be able to “stand alone”. In the case of the I-9 – training or instructions; nothing mitigates the signed statement. With the “attorney at the end of the phone” will signing – in 40 years when many are gone – ONLY my signature would remain; and someone might contest the validity of the notarization.

I’m sure to be “flamed”, but I would not sign an I-9 for any amount of money, I’m very wary.


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  1. I agree totally with your take on the I9. I also refuse to deal with them for the same reasons. Unfortunately until the you know what hits the fan there will always be notaries out there who are convinced by others that what they are doing is correct. I prefer to decide for myself iif what I am doing is correct or not.

    Comment by Michael Swain — August 12, 2015 @ 3:19 pm

  2. As one well-respected notary friend recently wrote, an I-9 form is not notary work, but it is work that can be done by notaries. If you don’t choose to do this work because of your understanding of the law in your state or because your state’s AG or SOS have said notaries there can not do them, I respect that. No flaming involved. 🙂

    I have done several of these and I do not see any problems with doing them. You are not doing them as a notary public; you are doing them as the employer’s representative, so statements made on the form are being made on behalf of the employer. Saying that something appears to be genuine is not a statement that you are an expert, only that you looked at it and does appear genuine. Really, the purpose of the I-9 form is to verify that they are eligible to work in the USA and the form itself gives a list of documents that satisfies the requirement to establish that they are. If you go to the USCIS website and take their training or if you are reasonably intelligent and read the form all the way through, you will understand what the requirements are.

    If I were in NY, I might agree with you about the word “certification” (as states have often defined things in the law in ways that are not the general usage), but for those of us in other states, to certify something is to write it down and sign your name to it, nothing more. Every time you notarize a document, you sign a notarial certificate (a jurat if the signer swore to the document, an acknowledgment if they did not swear, or a copy certification if that is something you are allowed to do in your state).

    So, I would not get too hung up on the TITLE of the document, which is all the word “Certification” is in this case. As a lawyer told me many years ago, the title of the document does not determine what the document is — it is just there for reference so the document preparer or recipient know what to call the thing. The body of the document determines what it is; the statement itself is what matters, not what it is called. For instance, many documents are called Affidavits (which means a sworn statement) yet lack any wording in the body or in the notarial certificate to indicate that they were actually sworn to or affirmed or made under oath; this title word does not change the nature of the document, even when it is wrong.

    Comment by Tim Gatewood — August 12, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

  3. Fortunately, notaries are not allowed to perform I-9 Certifications in CA so when I get requests I simply let them know that legally I can’t do it. Makes it easy!

    Comment by Angela — August 12, 2015 @ 7:47 pm

  4. I am not acting as a notary when I sign them, and I don’t ever sign them as a notary. I am acting as an individual within a company asked to act as an authorized representative. I meet the qualifications laid out by the company and suggested by USICS, but that is all. No big deal…$20 each plus cost of copy certification if asked for it.

    Comment by Julie — August 14, 2015 @ 3:05 am

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