I-9 Audit, Are You Ready?

Recent investigations and raids make it clear that I-9 enforcement is a top priority to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ALL employers must accurately complete I-9 forms for all new employees; therefore, it is imperative that your company has an organized and meaningful audit system in place, to assure compliance with the law. If your company is in need of assistance in getting your I-9 forms into compliance, you should contact a qualified, experienced immigration attorney.

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), all employers must verify that every person that is hired is either:

– A U.S. citizen – A lawful permanent resident – A foreign national with authorization to work in the U.S.

Within three business days of beginning the job, a new employee must furnish identity and employment eligibility documents. It is the responsibility of the employer to examine the documents to determine whether they are genuine and relate to the specific employee. Once the I-9 form is completed, they are to be kept in office for the longer of three years after employment begins or one year after employment is terminated; Retaining Form I-9.

Most importantly, if an employee has temporary employment authorization, a re-verification of employment eligibility must be conducted prior to expiration of the employment authorization. Moreover, officers of the DHS and ICE have the right to audit employers’ I-9 forms. DHS/ICE officers’ conduct an estimated 60,000 I-9 audits a year on employers around the country and have issued fines in excess of $1,000,000. Additionally, each mistake on an I-9 Form counts as a separate violation. All employers are further subject to civil and criminal penalties for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ aliens who are not authorized to work in the U.S. Accurate completion of I-9 forms is a good faith defense to a charge of hiring unauthorized workers.

ICE has increasingly been conducting workplace raids that can have a significant impact on an employer and its workers regardless of status. Results of those raids have been:

– Public relations nightmares – Fleeing or arrested workers resulting in loss of work force – Loss of productivity – Split up families and related humanitarian issues – Expensive and protracted litigation
Therefore, the best way for an employer to avoid IRCA problems is to establish a meaningful I-9 audit system. If necessary, this matter should be discussed in consultation with a qualified, experienced immigration attorney.