How To Prepare for ICE Form I-9 Inspections

Form I-9 Inspections

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). ICE’s mission is to protect the United States from cross-border crime and from illegal immigration that is a threat to public safety or national security. ICE has over 20,000 employees in over 400 offices throughout the world.

ICE has three operational branches, one of which is Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI investigates many violations, such as narcotics smuggling, worksite and employment violations, terrorism, transnational gang activity, identity and benefit fraud, cybercrime, and more. HSI also conducts worksite enforcement investigations of companies in the United States to deter illegal employment and attempt to lower the available employment opportunities for undocumented non-citizens.

Conducted inspections follow an administrative process, of which the first step is serving the employer with a Notice of Inspection. When an employer receives the Notice of Inspection, they must produce the Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9, for all their employees. To prepare for possible inspections, employers must understand what Form I-9 is and how to comply with the associated rules and regulations. Inaccurate or incomplete Form I-9s may lead to harsh penalties for the employer.

U.S. employers must verify the identity and employment eligibility of any employee hired after November 6, 1986, according to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Failure to comply with this Act may result in civil and criminal sanctions. In addition, employers must retain the original I-9s of all current employees. In contrast, the I-9s of former employees must remain on file for at least three years from the employee’s first day of employment or one year from the last day of work, whichever period is longer.

If ICE does notify an employer of the intent to audit their Form I-9s, the employer has three business days to make the forms available. If ICE discovers technical and substantive violations, they may assess monetary fines for each violation they found.

Should ICE discover that an employer knowingly hired or continued employing unauthorized workers, the employer will receive orders to stop the illegal activity. The employer might also receive civil fines or be criminally prosecuted. ICE will consider various factors when determining the base fine amount. These factors include the number of violations based on knowingly hiring unauthorized workers, uncorrected procedural or technical failures, and other substantive violations. Once these violations are determined, they will be divided by the number of Form I-9s the company should have made available at the inspection. This calculation will determine the percentage to calculate the minimum and maximum base fine amount for any civil penalties. These penalties can add up quickly, so it is best to accurately complete and store all Form I-9s immediately.

The best way to ensure completed Form I-9s is by using an electronic I-9 management tool. This tool guides employers and hiring personnel through every step of the process, thus guaranteeing the I-9 is correctly completed and securely stored for future review.

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