The Importance of I-9 Compliance for Businesses
These days, it’s more important than ever for your business to be I-9 compliant; if it is not, you are risking hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines and possibly even jail time.
The United States government’s Form I-9 is what you are required to use to verify the identity and employment eligibility of every individual your business hires, regardless of whether the worker is a US citizen or not. Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, not only must businesses have a Form I-9 on every employee; employers and employees each have sections to fill out; sections must be filled out correctly, completely, and during a very specific period of time; and employers even have to take care with the words they use when requesting the new employee’s personal documents.
In the past few years, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has quadrupled its I-9 enforcement activities. Investigations can occur without advance notice and require companies to produce all I-9 paperwork within 72 hours – this makes it crucial for you to already have your I-9 paperwork organized and up-to-date to avoid chaotic last-minute scrambling. Penalties for Form I-9 violations range from $230 to $2,292, while fines for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized workers are heftier – up to $20,130 per violation.
Getting I-9 Compliant
How do you ensure that your business is I-9 compliant? First, visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) page featuring its free M-274 Handbook for Employers that explains how to correctly complete a Form I-9. You can also visit USCIS’s I-9 Central site for additional I-9 information.
Next, make sure your company has written I-9 practices that are strong and thorough. You want to be in procedural and documentary compliance every time, so your procedures should include regular training for all staff members that participate in any I-9 activity, and performance of periodic I-9 self-audits.
Finally, perform an I-9 self-audit, or better yet, get someone from outside the company who knows what they’re doing to review your paperwork and processes with fresh eyes. Are your I-9s in a secure location, separate from regular personnel files? Do you have an I-9 form on every employee? Is everything signed and dated appropriately? Are your reverification dates calendared somewhere accessible to more than one person? After your self-audit identifies errors (because it will, since 76% of I-9 forms contain at least 1 error), remedy the errors immediately and appropriately, and update your written procedures so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Self-auditing may not be fun, but it can save your business tens of thousands of dollars.
Don’t make costly mistakes! Be proactive, not reactive, with your I-9 compliance. We can help!
The Wilson Law Group’s Immigration Department can save you time and money by helping identify what you’ve been doing wrong, and teach you how to do it right.
- Let us review your I-9 records – we want to be the set of fresh eyes that identifies errors and shows you how to correct them
- Bring us in to provide your I-9 policies and procedures training – our initial and refresher sessions take an in-depth look at this specific part of your on-boarding process, explaining what you can and cannot do and why, and ideally, your improved processes will help you avoid costly mistakes in the future and lead to even greater success!