Is Your Company Ready for a Form I-9 Inspection?
Recent Executive Orders issued by President Donald Trump direct the increased allocation of resources to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budgets for the stricter enforcement of immigration laws, including I‑9 compliance. United States employers should be aware of an increased likelihood of I‑9 inspections under these directives. Federal regulations require that employers complete and retain an I‑9 for each employee hired after November 6, 1986, to verify the employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may conduct a targeted or random inspection of an employer’s I‑9s to confirm that the employer is in compliance with the specific requirements for the completion, maintenance and retention of its I‑9s as provided in federal regulations. All United States employers, including those who do not employ foreign workers, may be subject to an I‑9 inspection.
As a best practice, employers should implement I‑9 compliance procedures and perform regular internal I‑9 audits to ensure that I‑9s are being completed and retained in compliance with federal regulations. Employers that do not follow these best practices may be at greater risk for potential civil fines for compliance violations or criminal penalties for knowingly employing unauthorized workers in the event of an I‑9 inspection. Although the I‑9 may look straightforward on its face, there are many potential errors or omissions that can result in compliance violations. Civil fines for compliance violations range from $216 to over $2,000 per I‑9. Recently, a Washington state company paid a $225,750 settlement for compliance violations. The largest settlement on record is $34 million.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides several free resources to assist with I‑9 compliance. The M-274, Handbook for Employers can be found here. USCIS also maintains an I‑9 Central website, which includes helpful information about the proper completion and retention of I‑9s, and it can be accessed here. The current version of Form I‑9 can be found here.
Prior to conducting an internal audit, employers should review the Guidance for Employers Conducting Internal Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 Audits memorandum jointly issued by ICE and the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, which provides guidance regarding best practices. The memorandum can be found here.
For further information or for assistance creating I‑9 training programs, conducting internal audits and implementing compliance procedures, please contact Carol A. Friend, Meghan N. Covino, or Sarah Robison.