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On March 2, 2010, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) announced I-9 inspections for 180 employers in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. If your business was targeted by ICE for a Form I-9 audit, how do you think you would do? Do you have easily accessible copies of completed I-9s for all your employees? Are you 100% sure that the documents you collected for verification are ones listed on the I-9 as acceptable documents and were originals?
I-9 Violations Put You at Risk for Penalties and Possible Prison Time
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE have strict rules and regulations for employers when it comes to completing, verifying, retaining and making the I-9 forms available for inspection by U.S. government officials. There are substantial civil penalties for non-compliance as well as the risk of criminal prosecution and jail time for those that knowingly hire and continue to employ unauthorized workers.
The fines and penalties that result from an inspection or audit vary depending on whether your company has knowingly hired unauthorized workers or failed to comply with Form I-9 employment verification requirements. Fines range from $110 to $16,000 per violation depending on the type of violation.
Michigan Company Fined Over $40,000 During an I-9 Audit
In December of 2009, the government filed a lawsuit against a Detroit-area company to recover a $41,360 fine which was assessed as a result of an I-9 audit. The fine was imposed for failure to properly complete close to 100 I-9 forms. There were no charges filed that the company knowingly hired illegal workers. These violations were the result of failing to certify and attest that employees are authorized to work in the United States and not reviewing the proper and acceptable documents to ensure eligibility. This tells us that paperwork mistakes alone relating to I-9 forms are cause enough for your business to be hit with a substantial fine.
The What, Who and When of the I-9 Form
With the government focused on investigating employment eligibility verification processes, we urge you to review your existing I-9 forms and recordkeeping procedures to make sure you are in compliance.
What is the I-9 Form?
The I-9 Form, Employment Eligibility Verification, is a one-page form used to document and verify that a new employee is legally eligible and authorized to work in the United States.
Who Must Complete an I-9 Form?
Each new employee hired after November 6, 1986 and working in the United States must complete a Form I-9. Employers must examine and review the evidence of identity and employment authorization that employees present. An employee may present any List A document OR a combination of a List B and a List C document.
When Should the I-9 be Completed?
A new employee must start the I-9 process on their first day of work and provide the supporting documentation within three days of their date of hire. Employers must keep the completed I-9 forms for each employee for three years from their date of hire or for one year after the date employment ends... whichever is later. A best practice is to store all the
I-9 forms for your employees in one, easily accessible, secure place... keeping active and terminated separate from each other.
Read Our Second Blog Posting in This I-9 Series... Using Red Ink Can Get You into Hot Water with ICE
Read Our Third Blog Posting in This I-9 Series... More is Not Always Better When the Government is Involved