ICE isn’t just for beverages or parties, it can also be a visit many employers are not necessarily prepared for. ICE is the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcements, a specialized agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS Special Agents are tasked with visiting employers to inspect their Form I-9 records to identify discrepancies, errors, missing information (including the form itself) and non-compliance by employers.
The Form I-9 was introduced in 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The act requires employers to verify identity and employment eligibility of their employees. As with many regulatory requirements placed on employers, there are fines for violations that can range from $375 to $16,000 per violations. Assessing these fines isn’t necessarily black and white like a parking ticket. ICE is taking into consideration the business size, good faith effort of the employer, seriousness of the violations, employment of unauthorized aliens, paperwork violations, prior offenses, and whether the employer knowingly and purposely violated the Act.
The agency is kind enough to send employers a Notice of Inspection (NOI) to allow them three days to present the Form I-9s for both current and terminated employees. That’s right, current AND terminated records are required by ICE for inspection. This means employers need to understand record retention requirements in addition to correctly processing Form I-9s.
Here are some best practice tips to help you with your Form I-9s:
- Designate a point person or persons for your Form I-9 compliance.
- Train leaders and records personnel the importance of Form I-9 compliance to support your designated point person(s).
- Make sure you are using the most up-to-date Form I-9 (verify your form’s expiration date in the top right hand corner).
- Keep a copy of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Handbook for Employers handy (available to save as an electronic document on your desktop or printable to keep at your fingertips).
- Keep your I-9’s in a separate secure location from personnel records, either physically or electronically.
- Annual internal audits are an excellent way to review your records to ensure accuracy, identify gaps, and make corrections.
- Stay current on immigration law and employment eligibility verification regulations.
- HRIS systems, like HRDrive, are often equipped to properly retain employee records, including the Form I-9, in a compliant, secure, and accessible fashion.
- Add E-Verify to your Form I-9 process in a uniformly consistent practice. (E-Verify is a free internet service provided to employers by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department as an aid – not a replacement – to the Form I-9 process.)
Employers are tasked with many responsibilities, the Form I-9 being one small piece of a very large complicated puzzle. It is important each employee, new and current, start their journey with your company with the proper steps to avoid later mishaps. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing your building success on a solid (and compliant) foundation.
Optional Resource List used for Above Article: