How to Ensure Your Company Is Ready for an I-9 Audit this Summer

Last summer, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) chose to spring a swarm of Form I-9 audits over the summer holidays, surprising many employers. Given the increased enforcement activity recently, it seems possible that ICE is gearing up for a repeat of last year, meaning now is the time to prepare and ensure your business is ready for summer audits. Here are some steps to prepare and ensure your business is ready if and when an audit occurs.

I-9 Inspection

The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires all employers to complete Form I-9 to verify their employees’ identities and authorization to work if hired on or after November 7, 1986. Once an employer completes Form I-9, they must retain it for all current and former employees for three years from their hire date or one year after their employment ends, whichever is later. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain these I-9 forms in case of an audit.

If ICE decides to audit your business, they will likely issue a Notice of Inspection (NOI). After receiving the NOI, you will have three business days to supply the I-9 forms and supporting documentation that ICE requested. In addition, you might also be required to appear before ICE to testify about your business’s I-9 practices.

ICE may request the I-9 forms for any current employees hired after November 6, 1986, as well as the I-9 forms of any former employees still required to be on file. ICE could also ask for an electronic list of your employees, payroll data, E-Verify documentation, Social Security mismatch correspondence, business licenses, and business information, such as employer ID numbers.

Protecting Your Business

You should ensure you are prepared for an I-9 audit to avoid penalties or fines. Your business can do the following to prepare for an I-9 audit:

  • Train your personnel on how to complete Form I-9 correctly.
  • Make sure your managers adequately understand the company’s I-9 compliance processes.
  • Ensure your managers know what to do if they realize an employee is not authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Arrange for an immigration attorney to inspect your Form I-9s to help ensure the I-9s are ready for inspection by ICE.
  • Have a team of employees in charge of notifying the company’s immigration and employment counsel should ICE visit a company worksite.

Fines for I-9 Violations

You may have to pay anywhere from $252 to $2,507 for every I-9 violation when fined for a substantive, technical, or procedural violation. For example, if ICE determines that you intentionally hired an undocumented worker, you may also receive a penalty ranging from $627 to $5,016 for a first offense. The second offense can lead to fines ranging from $5,016 to $12,537, and the third or subsequent offense is $7,523 to $25,076. The final penalty varies depending on several factors. These factors include but are not limited to the seriousness of the violation, business size, number of unauthorized workers, good faith compliance of the company, and previous offenses.

Final Thoughts

Complying with the Form I-9 requirements can be challenging, but it is crucial to complete the process accurately in case of auditing by ICE. An easy and convenient way to ensure your company never needs to worry about I-9 audits is to use an electronic I-9 management tool. This tool guides your personnel through the I-9 process, ensuring proper I-9 completion, secure storage, and absolute readiness for auditing needs.

Learn more about automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.