The Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9, more commonly known simply as the I-9, may be the form most familiar to HR professionals and employees alike, since one is required for every employee. The I-9’s importance is undeniable – it verifies that an employee is legally permitted to work in the United States.
In 2018, the I-9 is more important than ever, as the U.S. government is significantly increasing the number of I-9 audits they perform. In fact, in October 2017, Thomas Homan, then acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said that he had instructed ICE to increase worksite enforcement actions by as much as five times in 2018. Is your company prepared?
I-9 audits are serious business
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), ICE’s investigative unit, inspects companies for I-9 violations. During an audit, they check to ensure that every employee has an I-9 and that the information listed on the form is accurate. This includes checking the validity of identification documents such as an employee’s social security card, driver’s license, U.S. passport, permanent or temporary resident card, or Employment Authorization Document to ensure that employee is who they claim to be and is permitted to work in the United States.
Employers found guilty of I-9 noncompliance may face serious consequences. Under federal law, the punishment for hiring an unauthorized worker can include costly fines and the barring of the employer from participating in federal contracts for one year. Failure to maintain accurate I-9 records also carries expensive monetary fines — including for errors on I-9 forms of employees who are authorized to work here in the U.S.
How to ensure I-9 compliance
If you aren’t already using an enterprise content management system (ECM) to handle your company’s information, you may want to consider making the transition to help manage your document and data-intensive processes, including I-9 compliance.
An ECM can simplify I-9 processes and help ensure compliance by automating data entry so that you minimize the errors caused by manual data entry. In addition to flagging any missing information or signatures when an I-9 is submitted, an ECM can also make it easier to conduct I-9 self-audits and comply with government audits. With an ECM, you can quickly locate I-9 forms and related documents for review, and create reports showing where you’re missing information so that you can update it before it becomes a problem.
Eventually, the federal government plans to complete up to 15K I-9 audits each year, so preparing now could help protect your company.