Employer I-9 Compliance More Necessary than Ever as Fines to be Increased to a Record Breaking High
Effective August 1, 2016, civil fines for immigration-related violations are set to increase dramatically. These new fines will be applied to all penalties issued by the Department of Homeland Security after August 1, 2016 and any violations that occurred after November 2, 2015.
Amongst the fines being increased are the fines related to I-9 violations. The Form I-9 is a document provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Its use is required by any and all employers to verify a new employee’s identity and to establish that a worker is eligible to accept employment in the United States. At any time, Homeland Security can send their enforcementagency, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a business and demand production of the company’s I-9s.
The I-9 Form
While the I-9 is a simplistic looking form, a large percentage of I-9s are completed incorrectly. To put the complexity in perspective, the 2-paged I-9 form comes with 7 pages of instructions and a 66-page Handbook providing guidance for employers on how to complete the I-9.
Failures to comply with the numerous requirements of Homeland Security may result in either Technical or Substantive Violations. While Technical Violations, or procedural failures, tend to be related to minor typographical or recording errors, Substantive Violations are errors so major that they normally cannot be corrected. It is these errors, and uncorrected Technical Violations, that result in devastating monetary fines to employers. And these fines can be issued for simple errors like failing to write down information in the right place, misspellings, or even just missing a checkbox.
Many of these fines will be doubled or more. Currently, each violation results in a fine ranging from $110 – $1,100. Under the new fee structure, each violation will result in a fine ranging from $216 – $2,156. If a company has just 5 employees, and each I-9 is in violation, it could be suddenly looking at over $10,000 in fines due to the government. And for the first time an employer is caught knowingly hiring unauthorized workers, the fine has increased from $375 – $3,200 per worker to $539 – $4,313 per worker.
ICE has become more and more serious over past years in assessing fines and increasing the number of audits conducted. Since 2007, the occurrence of Form I-9 fines have increased almost 60,000% jumping from $26,500 in 2007 to over $15 million in 2013!
What can be done to mitigate or eliminate the risk of I-9 fines?
When ICE agents show up on your doorstep, it may already be too late. Instead, internal audits can be conducted on a regular basis to assess the current situation, correct what can be corrected, document those issues that cannot, and show ICE that your company is serious about complying with immigration-related regulations. Serious care must be taken in conducting these audits, as they can cause more harm and additional fines if performed improperly. To ensure your company’s next audit is done correctly, contact an experienced immigration law attorney. For more information, assistance with your next I-9 audit, training for your staff, or representation in defending yourself against an ongoing ICE audit, contact Vivian Salib Crowell, Chair of the Immigration Division at Shapiro Law Group, PC at 339.200.9933.