If your company is selected for an administrative inspection, you will probably receive the NOI (Notice of Inspection) through a personal visit by an ICE agent. The inspection will determine your company’s compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 along with other immigration laws. At this point you will have three business days to gather and produce all documentation. You will be required to produce Form I-9s for your current employees and, in some cases, for former employees, as well. There is also supplemental documentation that may be requested. The key to successfully handling the inspection is preparation and organization.

When you first receive your NOI, begin by gathering all documentation. The agent will usually provide a list of what documentation ICE is requesting. Of course, it will list Form I-9, but it may also include a copy of your payroll, a list of current employees and business licenses. A Special Agent in Charge can also ask for Social Security no-match letters, lists of managers and copies of company compliance policies. If you feel you won’t meet the deadline, you can request a delay. It might even be best to retain a document management service which is experienced in immigration law. A service can assess your compliance before the inspection and prevent issues from arising.

When all the documentation is gathered, a Forensic Auditor within ICE will inspect it. If problems are found, the auditor will determine to which category they belong. Technical and procedural violations are minor and an employer will be give 10 business days to correct them. Substantive violations are much more serious and there is not opportunity provided for correction. Substantive violations include missing document numbers and signatures. Substantive violations don’t always have to stay that way, however. If the company or its representative can show that documents were, in fact, maintained, but, perhaps incorrectly, then the violation may be reduced to a technical violation.

Now, if you and your company have knowingly hired employees that are undocumented or with inadequate documentation, you will be sought out and fined. You may even face criminal prosecution. Immigration law is flaunted only at great peril.

On the other hand, companies should not suffer punishment when they make mistakes even after good faith efforts at compliance. Given the high bar set for compliance most companies would do well to contract with a compliance specialist such as I-9Compliance.com to assist them in managing documentation. I-9Compliance.com’s secure web-based I9 system integrates with the federally mandated E-Verify system avoiding costly violations.