Thoroughly and accurately completing and retaining the I-9 forms for all of your employees is no longer an option. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is involved and they are not accepting excuses of ignorance, or oversight. I-9 audits are being conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the DHS, and they are cracking down on the employers, not the employees who are in violation.
Reports of companies being fined anywhere from a few thousand to in excess of a million dollars are not uncommon. Jail time and even exportation in one case have been issued to violators. Though the largest fines are typically applied to those who are blatantly in violation, however even companies who are not hiring undocumented workers can be fined for absent or inaccurate information on their employee’s I-9 form.
The process for completing the I-9 appears simple enough, however the short form is more complex then it appears and also requires the appropriate documentation to be in line with government requirements. Incomplete information of the I-9 cost one restaurant franchise owner staffing three stores was fined $ 32,000, which pales in comparison to the restaurant owner who, following the ICE audit was fined $67,000. Both examples of simple omissions of dates and signatures, or failure to retain the I-9 in compliance with the regulations resulted in these stiff penalties. Employing an undocumented worker? You can plan to add jail time to your penalty.
Should you find yourself being scrutinized by the ICE for I-9 compliance you’ll be asked to present a completed I-9 with all supporting documents for your employees, including those which have been terminated within the last year. The ever changing rules and regulations put upon the employers can be overwhelming. Even unknowingly hiring illegal immigrants will result in fines, probable jail time, and the potential loss of assets. Utilizing employment agency or contract workers does nothing to alleviate your responsibility. The government is requiring employers are diligent in obtaining a legal work force and are placing a great burden on them to ensure they comply.
One of the best ways to limit the liability to yourself and your company is to utilize the government’s I-9 compliance verification, E-Verify. Access to this government run program does require an extensive certification process which many employers find too much of an investment. They opt instead to employ one of the government certified companies which can verify your I-9 compliance for you. Ensuring your company is safe when confronted with an ICE I-9 audit is invaluable protection that will help you rest easy knowing you have done everything possible to meet the government’s I-9 compliance requirements.