Should you conduct an I-9 self audit?
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has increased onsite employer audits of I-9 Forms and worksite raids since the Trump administration has taken office. ICE audited 1,360 organizations in 2017, resulting in 71 indictments and 55 convictions of business owners and managers. ICE is also encouraging use of the voluntary e-verify program.
Civil penalties for knowingly employing unauthorized immigrants can range from $539 to $21,563. Repeat offenders and companies hiring a larger number of undocumented employees receive fines on the higher end of the range. In addition, Form I-9 paperwork violations carry a penalty of $216 to $2,156 per worker.
The easiest way to avoid penalties and fines is to ensure you are in compliance before you get audited. A self-audit evaluates whether your I-9 forms are being properly collected, completed and stored and determines where you need to improve practices and policies.Things to consider when conducting an I-9 self-audit include:
Review current policies and procedures for compliance. If you don't have a written policy and procedure, establish one and then train your staff on it.
Compare I-9 forms with payroll records to ensure there is a completed form for each employee.
Make sure hard-copy I-9 forms are maintained in a separate file from employees' personnel files, or maintained electronically in compliance with the law. Electronic I-9 storage requirements are similar to that of health care records in terms of access and security, so ensure you know you can meet those requirements before deciding to maintain only an electronic version of your I-9 forms.
Making corrections or completing a missing form must be conducted in a specific way. New information should be inserted, signed and dated as of the time of the insertion. If the omission or mistake was in Section 1 of the I-9 form, the employee should also sign and date the correction.
If conducting an audit and corrections or new forms are being completed, attach a short memo to each form affected explaining the audit process, type of the corrections, the name of the person making the corrections and the date of the audit.
You should never back date the form.
While regulations do not allow employers to correct an I-9 form in order to become compliant retroactively, I do believe that making corrections as a result of a self-audit and establishing and documenting compliant practices will go a long way to helping you avoid maximum fines and penalties if you were audited. You also will have established a compliant practice going forward which avoids future exposure.
Amanda Gleason is a Human Resources Compliance Consultant and President of People First HR. Connect with her to learn how she can help you build compliant and effective programs that support and grow your organization and its people.