With a recent increased focus on immigration enforcement, it is anticipated that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will increase Form I-9 administrative audits.  Form I-9 audits can often result in significant fines to employers.  Fines for knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien can range from $539 to $21,563 per unauthorized alien.  Many employers do not realize that there are also fines for not properly completing the Form I-9.  These fines can range from $216 up to $2,156 per form.

Initially, the three-page I-9 form appears straightforward to complete.  However, there are 15 pages of instructions to accompany the Form I-9 that contain many specific details – which can easily result in mistakes.  In fact, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services publishes a list of 24 common mistakes made when completing the Form I-9.

What can you do to make sure you are compliant?

1.  Properly complete a Form I-9 with each new hire.  You should have a company representative who is thoroughly trained in completing the Form I-9.  Each new hire must complete the most recent version of the Form I-9 by the first day of employment.  Old versions of the form are not valid.  You can download the current form here.  The company representative must physically review the actual identification document(s) (not copies) provided by the employee within 3 business days from the employee’s date of hire.

2.  Conduct an audit of Form I-9s on file.  Form I-9s cannot be audited or corrected after being notified by ICE of an audit.  However, you can and should audit and correct your Form I-9s annually to make sure you are compliant.  It is recommended that self-audits are completed by someone other than the employee responsible for the initial verification.  This helps identify any training opportunities and allows for a second review of the information completed.

3.  Correct any incorrect or incomplete Form I-9s.  When making corrections to a Form I-9, it is important to follow proper protocol and clearly identify, initial and date the corrections.  It is very important to understand the proper way to make corrections, because you can inadvertently create errors.  Click here for tips to correcting the Form I-9.

4.  Follow proper retention of I-9s.  You should keep completed Form I-9s secure and separate from employees’ other personnel records.  You must have a Form I-9 on file for every employee on your payroll.  The only exception are employees hired prior to 1986.  Only approved personnel should have access to the I-9 Forms.  Once an employee no longer works for your company, you must determine how long you are required to maintain their Form I-9.  This is calculated by using whichever date is later, either 3 years from the employee’s hire date or 1 year from their termination date.

5.  Reverify when necessary.  Under some circumstances, when an employee provides an employment authorization document (List A or List C Document) with an expiration date, you are required to reverify this information upon expiration.  Additionally, you can reverify an employee that is rehired within 3 years of completing the original Form I-9, without having them complete the entire process again.  The reverification section can also be used to update a legal name change.  It is important to note that the most recent version of the Form I-9 must be used for reverification; although only Section 3 needs to be completed and retained with the original Form I-9.

If you need assistance or have questions regarding Form I-9 compliance, please contact HR Solutions Group to learn how we can help you reduce your Form I-9 exposure.