The start of the new year is a perfect time to assess corporate compliance with U.S. immigration laws. As Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and the Department of Labor (“DOL”) increase their number of company audits and fines each year, it is important for employers to perform annual audits of their employment law and immigration compliance. In addition, companies are often financially responsible for any civil and/or criminal fines imposed when their staff does not correctly follow the letter of the law. Thus, staff training on immigration compliance and employment laws should be a standard part of any business’s regular compliance audit.
Basic I-9 Requirements
Form I-9 is required by all employers to have each employee complete within 3 business days of hiring them, regardless of immigration status or citizenship.
A properly completed I-9 should be on file for every current employee. For former employees, I-9’s should be retained for 1 year after termination or 3 years after start of employment, whichever is longer.
These confidential forms should be kept secured with access limited to trained staff only. I-9’s and supporting documents may be retained electronically or in paper hard copies as long as the company correctly processes and consistently retains I-9’s in the same format.
Accepted Versions of I-9
New I-9’s should be filled out using the latest version of the form (either February 2, 2009 or August 7, 2009). A new version does not need to be completed for current employees with a previously completed Form I-9. The Spanish version I-9 may only be completed by employers and employees located in Puerto Rico.
I-9 Supporting Documents
If the employer utilizes e-Verify, e-Verify must be consistently performed and documented for every employee. For non-U.S. citizens or non-permanent residents, evidence of current and valid employment authorization is required.
Common I-9 Errors
I-9 errors can be costly to employers if identified by the DOL or ICE during an audit. Some common I-9 errors include:
- Not timely completed;
- Employer discrimination by requesting too few, too many, or only specific documents;
- Incorrectly completed forms, such as incorrect date of birth or wrong box checked, missing social security number, no signature, document list incomplete or incorrect, incorrect form version, etc., as well as inconsistent manner of completion by the various company representatives, including an inconsistent mix of electronic documents and paper documents;
- Not properly tracking immigration employment authorization expirations and documenting timely renewals or extensions of employment authorization;
- Improper retention by not timely removing expired I-9’s for former employees or not maintaining I-9’s in a safe and secure manner; and
- Incorrectly completing or not consistently documenting e-Verify, including situations where no-match letters are received and timely resolved.
Many of these pitfalls can be avoided through regular employee training and annual I-9 audits.
We certainly recommend periodic internal I-9 reviews by companies. However, such reviews should be done carefully. It is not uncommon for self-audits of companies, once done incorrectly, to cause additional costly errors; therefore, an I-9 compliance audit by a qualified outside source is strongly recommended.
In addition to auditing actual completed I-9’s and supporting documents, employers are responsible for ensuring their hiring managers, human resources, executive staff, and other responsible employees are trained in employment law requirements, specifically what can and cannot be asked or requested. For example: not all designated employees know how to avoid discrimination allegations when requesting documents by employees; not all designated employees know who is authorized to sign I-9’s on behalf of the company, and not all designated employees know (or can easily find out) the difference between employees and contract workers?
I-9 Official Resources
We would like to share some general I-9 resources.
- USCIS’ I-9 Central Home
- USCIS’ Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing Form I-9
- USCIS’ E-Verify User Manual
How Can We Help
The Capitol Immigration Law Group can provide various levels internal I-9 compliance audits and on-site employee training as well as training materials and guidance for performing regular audits and training. We can provide immigration compliance training and auditing to meet an employer’s specific needs. We encourage all employers to mindful of their compliance requirements and to proactively and regularly audit their compliance before a government agency does. We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics. We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance or you have any questions or comments.