Here is the second blog posting in our series on I-9 violations and what you can do to avoid them. 

As we discussed in our recent posting, Nationwide I-9 Audits Continue in Search of Immigration Violations, the government is cracking down on businesses that don't comply with the eligibility verification requirements the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) have in place.  Fines range from $110 to $16,000 per violation depending on the type of violation.  One Michigan automobile plastics company was fined over $40,000 for failing to certify that their employees met the government regulations for employment eligibility in the United States.

Take the Time & Do Your Own Internal I-9 Audit
Within the last year, our own HR department took a look at the I-9 forms we have on file for employees.  They did some research to make sure we were compliant with our I-9 processes and procedures and were not at risk for fines and penalties.  The findings uncovered some things you might be surprised at that can get your business slapped with a fine.  The government is diligent in outlining what documents you need to review and verify to stay I-9 compliant.  But there isn't much information available that spells out what not to write on the Form I-9, how to handle corrections and the color of ink you shouldn't use.

Beware of Red Ink, Miscellaneous Marks and Improper Corrections
Here are some of the penalty-resulting discoveries our HR department uncovered through several calls to Homeland Security... so we thought we would share them with you...

  • Red ink is a no-no!  The government prefers black ink.  Blue ink will do... red will not.  And neither will purple, green or any other ink color out there.
  • Do not use a highlighter to call attention to anything on the I-9 form.
  • Do not put any miscellaneous marks or notes in the margins or white space around the I-9 form.  Even the slightest little check mark at the top of the form (maybe during your own internal auditing process) can put you at risk for a penalty.
  • If you need to make a correction, do not use white out or corrective tape.  You need to show the government what information was there before the correction is made to the form.
  • When making a correction, you should cross out the item that needs correcting by putting a line through the incorrect information, write in the new information and initial and date when the correction was made.

Pay Attention to Expiration Dates and Don't Discriminate
While these 2 items may seem self-explanatory, they also can give your company a hefty fine if you don't follow these
2 simple rules...

  1. Always use the most current Form I-9 when a new employee is hired and make sure the form is not expired.  The current I-9 form expires on 8/31/2012.  So in September of 2012, make sure you check the expiration date of the I-9 forms you are using when a new employee starts.  If you are updating or reverifying the information on an employee's I-9 form, you'll need to make sure you are using a form that has not expired.
  2. An employer cannot specify which documents they will accept from an employee.  If you have never read through the instructions on the I-9 form, then now might be a good time to take a look at the Anti-Discrimination Notice at the top of this form.  Did you know that as an employer or HR manager, you cannot specify which documents you want your employees to provide for employment verification?  So if your offer letter to a new employee tells them to bring their driver's license and social security card with them on their first day... then get your company's checkbook out... that can be grounds for a fine.


Read Our Third Blog Posting in This I-9 Series... More is Not Always Better When the Government is Involved