You know the form: the I-9 employment eligibility verification that every employee has to fill out before they can work for you. No matter how diligent you may be with your I-9 record-keeping, you still may find yourself nervous if you receive a “Notice of Inspection” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE).
If you don’t already know, a Notice of Inspection means that ICE is going to audit your I-9 compliance to make sure you have kept up with your employment eligibility verification duties and that you are not employing anyone illegally. If you are found to have broken the law with regard to your I-9 compliance, you could face severe fines and criminal penalties.
Below we’ve outlined some tips to help you make sure your employment practice and I-9 record keeping are fully compliant with the law. This is not an exhaustive list and should not be considered legal advice for your specific business or situation.
Tip #1 – Make sure your prospective employee fills out the proper and most up to date I-9 form issued by US Citizenship and Immigration services, and that they complete Section 1 of the form on their first day of work, and Section 2 ofthe form by their third day of work.
Tip #2 – Do not, under any circumstances, accept expired documents or IDs as proof of eligibility to work. Always make sure you check the expiration on the documentation submitted by the prospective employee, and if it is up to date make sure you have a way of keeping track of when it will expire in the future. Overlooking the expiration on a driver’s license or a visa is a mistake you cannot afford to make.
Tip #3 – Create a clear and efficient record-keeping system for all of your I-9 forms. Keep them all in a separate and secure folder. File all the I-9s of current employees in one folder, and have all of your I-9s from past employees in another folder as well. The last thing you want is a missing I-9 when ICE comes knocking.
Tip #4 – Employers must walk the line between asking enough information and asking too little. You have to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the US with the I-9 and the documentation required by that form, but if you ask for more than what is required by law you could be cited for discrimination.
Tip #5 – Regularly conduct self-audits of your I-9 compliance. Make sure you have the proper I-9 and documentation for all of your current and past employees, and make sure they are completely filled out. If you find mistakes on a form, update them, then initial and date the change. This will also help you keep up with getting updated documentation from employees whose past documentation may have expired.
Ensuring I-9 compliance takes constant vigilance. But a little bit of proactive work is well worth it when you think about what’s at stake if you hire employees illegally. Even simple mistakes in record-keeping or in filling out an I-9 form could result in huge fines for your company. Business immigration attorney Russell Ford can help you implement I-9 self-audit procedures and processes so that, if an ICE audit ever occurs, you are prepared and ready instead of stressed and fearful. Give us a call and let us help you ensure your business is always I-9 compliant.