Ready for Your ICE Audit?
Or did that headline just make you break out into a cold sweat?
Facing an audit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some practical steps your organization can take to help ensure your I-9 forms are in compliance — and avoid hefty fines.
How Does an ICE Audit Start?
Typically, the first notice an employer has that an ICE audit is on the horizon comes in the form of a Notice of Inspection (NOI). A business served with a NOI must be able to produce its Form I-9 for each employee within three business days. If ICE finds violations in the forms, the company has 10 business days to correct them — but even if corrections are made, a business can be fined for “substantive violations.”
Form I-9 is a federal form that helps ensure employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. It records basic information about an employee’s identity and employment authorization. As a rule, businesses are required to keep an I-9 on file for every current employee and for terminated employees for three years after the date of hire or one year after the termination date, whichever is later.
A business that cannot produce I-9 forms or that produces incomplete or inaccurate forms may face penalties from ICE. Keeping these forms in compliance is key to passing your audit with flying colors.
How to Keep I-9 Forms in Compliance: Tips and Tricks
Spot Top Mistakes
On the I-9, some mistakes are more common than others. Some of the top mistakes employers make when completing the I-9 include:
- Accepting incorrect documentation of an employee’s citizenship status,
- Failing to re-verify when necessary,
- Failing to keep or to destroy forms within the recommended time frames,
- Leaving out information or failing to enter information correctly,
- Failing to complete Section 3 of Form I-9,
- Failing to ensure the form is properly signed or dated.
- Create a Consistent Policy — and Use It
Most of the “top mistakes” made on Form I-9 can be prevented by creating a policy that addresses the mistakes and following it consistently. Best practices for policies include only accepting valid forms of supporting documentation, re-verifying existing work authorizations, and reviewing payroll records frequently to spot and fix any missing Form I-9.
When corrections on an existing I-9 form are made, the person making the correction should initial it, date it, and briefly explain the reason for the correction (e.g., “per self-audit”). Simply using correction fluid or tape to scratch out and “fix” a mistake may lead to unnecessary questions during an audit.
When an employee is terminated, don’t forget to address the I-9. Calculate the date at which the form should be destroyed, and set up a reminder system that ensures forms are taken care of in a timely manner.
- Train Employees Properly
Allowing untrained managers to sign off on Form I-9 can greatly increase the risk of mistakes. Once a “best practices” policy is put in place, regular training should be conducted to ensure that managers know what the I-9 policies are and how to follow them. Training can also help staff prepare for an ICE audit.
Make sure managers know how to complete the form correctly, and that the person responsible for managing the I-9s knows what to look for when ensuring completion. Keep Form I-9s in a secure place, separate from employment personnel files, and set up a system to track reminders to re-verify work authorization documents or to destroy paperwork at the proper time after an employee is terminated. The team responsible for responding to ICE audits should also receive training, so they know what to expect.
- Conduct a Voluntary Self-Audit
By conducting periodic internal audits of some or all of the company’s I-9 forms for employees, an organization can catch mistakes and trace them back to their source. This can help increase accuracy, improve training so managers can gather more accurate information, and cut down on the risk of being penalized by ICE if an external audit turns up errors. In addition, regular internal audits help demonstrate to government authorities that the company has made a good-faith effort to ensure its I-9s were in compliance.
- Trust, but E-Verify.
E-Verify is a free, Internet-based program that compares information from an employer’s I-9 with data from U.S. government records. Launched in 1997, E-Verify has since expanded to include all federal contractors and subcontractors, as well as employers in most U.S. states. States and localities also have their own E-Verify requirements.
Even businesses that aren’t required to use E-Verify may find the program useful for spotting errors or missing information on I-9 forms before a Notice of Inspection arrives. Comparing forms with E-Verify can also help businesses demonstrate to ICE that attempts were made to ensure compliance.
Reduce Compliance Risks by Partnering with a Staffing Firm:
A temporary staffing firm can help you get work done and stay compliant. As the employer of record, your temporary staffing agency is responsible for handling worker authorization and paperwork, allowing you to stay focused on reaching your business goals.
When you need rapid access to reliable, trained and eligible workers, give Job Store Staffing a call. We build partnerships with our clients for long-term business success.
Note: Information in this article is not intended as legal advice and should not be construed as such. If you need help with a specific legal issue, contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your area.
Job Store Staffing has offices in Denver, Aurora, Broomfield, and Colorado Springs to meet your Colorado staffing requirements. Call today and see why we have so many loyal customers- 303-757-7686.