Important Information for Employers

Posted with permission of the American Insitute of Professional Bookkeepers; from General Ledger, October 2017

Expect an immigration audit of your firm.

The intense focus on illegal immigration is sparking new enforcement efforts. For employers, this means a big jump in I-9 audits.

Key point: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency audits are not made by appointment —ICE auditors just show up at your door.
ICE auditors are looking for I-9s with missing information and, more importantly, documents you have on file proving, first, the worker’s personal identity; second, that the worker is authorized to work in the U.S., and, lastly, that these documents look like the originals —i.e., the copies do not appear to be doctored.
But ICE can question an I-9 for any reason. Another example is your having on file the wrong document for the category of documentation required.

Penalties

The steepest are up to $16,000 per violation and are levied against employers that knowingly hire and keep undocumented workers on the payroll.
More common are $1,100 fines for administrative failures. But if you have I-9 recordkeeping issues with one employee, you likely have them with many—at $1,100 per violation.
When determining penalties, ICE auditors take into consideration the following factors:
• size of the organization,
• degree of “good faith efforts to comply” with the law,
• seriousness of the violation, • if unauthorized workers are involved, and
• previous history of violations.

Reminder: You are required to keep all I-9s on file not only for current employees, but also for former employees, for 3 years from date of hire —or for 1 year after the employee terminates—whichever is later.

Notice of Inspection

When you receive an ICE Notice of Inspection, you have just 3 days to produce all your I-9s (extensions are granted, but don’t count on it).
Here’s what to do:
1. Check your I-9 files for any potential problems. You can try to fill in missing I-9 data, but it is up to ICE whether to accept your additions.
2. Make copies of all forms and documents before you give the originals to ICE. The documents ICE typically asks for are supporting documentation, such as a copy of your payroll and employee roster, business permits and articles of incorporation.
3. If you did not get an I-9 at time of hire, do not try to obtain one at this point. ICE uses forensics experts to determine whether I-9s are recent; if they are, you are in more hot water.

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