It’s official! Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a statement saying I-9 audits are happening in full force this summer. While ICE remains hyperfocused on criminal activity and deporting people who are working in the U.S. illegally, the fact remains that audits are on the rise and your company could be next. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), there are already more open workplace investigations in 2018 than there were in the entire year of 2017—and it’s not even officially summer yet. Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for an I-9 audit:
1. Make sure you have an I-9 on file for all current employees.
Everyone you employ must have a correctly completed I-9 on file. Review your records and make a list of anyone who has missing or incomplete paperwork; now you know which employees to focus your attention on, and which ones will most likely put you at risk in an ICE audit.
2. Check to see that each I-9 is filled out correctly.
Once you’re confident that you have I-9 forms on file for all employees, it’s important to make sure the forms are filled out properly. Mistakes are more common that you’d think, especially if you’ve had multiple people fill out the employer portion of the form. Separate forms into two categories, “correct” and “incorrect.” There is no such thing as “close enough” when it comes to accuracy; tiny details can get you a fine, so know what constitutes a correct form.
3. Fix mistakes and complete new forms if necessary.
Common mistakes include missing, incorrect, or incomplete dates, missing signatures, information listed in the wrong place on the form, and an incorrect combination of documents used to verify employment eligibility. Minor mistakes (like an incorrect date) can be fixed on the existing form by writing the correct information, initialing it, and dating your correction. Larger mistakes (like using the wrong combination of verification documents or filling out information in the wrong section) require a new form entirely. Do not use “white out” on an I-9.
4. Make sure you are compliant with I-9 requirements for former employees.
You’re required to keep I-9s for former employees for a specific length of time—this is 3 years after an employee’s hire date, OR 1 year after their termination date; the later date is the one that matters. If there are errors on an I-9 for a former employee, then it is acceptable to type a letter explaining what errors exist and why you are unable to have the person correct them (i.e. “no longer employed”).
5. Track your progress as you take steps to ensure I-9 compliance.
ICE considers any effort to improve compliance as a good faith gesture and this can help reduce fines and penalties. As you begin to evaluate your company’s I-9 compliance, track the work you are doing to fix errors and be able to demonstrate the progress you are making. This will help you reduce your overall risk and exposure if you are formally audited before you’ve had a chance to fix every issue.
Ask us questions about I-9 compliance via our online chat tool in the lower left corner of your screen. We are passionate about helping companies hire, develop, and retain smart employees and we love to share what we know!