Most businesses employ a clear strategy for sticking to a budget in an effort to minimize unnecessary costs. One such unnecessary cost that can put a major dent in a business's bottom line is an I-9 violation. As of June 2020, I-9 violations can cost a business $234 to $2,332 per offense. If your company knowingly hires unauthorized workers, you may be subjected to higher fines between $583 and $4,667 for the first offense.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent your company from being subjected to these fees.
What is an I-9 Form?
The I-9 form is also called the Employment Eligibility Verification, as it is used to confirm the eligibility status of an individual to work in the United States. This form applies to both citizens of the United States and noncitizens.
I-9 forms contain three sections. Section 1 is the Employee Information and Attestation section, and new employees are required to fill this out before their first day of employment. Section 1 requires employees to supply basic information, like their full legal name, address, and more. Lastly, the employee must check an appropriate box to signify whether they are a U.S. citizen or if they are authorized to work in the U.S.
Section 2 is then filled out by the employer within three business days of the new hire beginning employment. New hires must present two documents that prove eligibility, and the HR manager will often include copies of these documents in their files. Section 3 only applies to employees whose employment authorization status needs to be reverified or if an employer rehires a former employee.
What is a Notice of Inspection?
An ICE agent may show up to your business any time and present you with a notice of inspection (NOI). If this happens your company is required to provide I-9 forms for all of your current employees. Additionally, you must provide forms from former employees for a period of at least three years from their hire dates or at least one year after employment was terminated, whichever is longer.
After an ICE agent presents a notice of inspection, your company has three days to provide these documents, and potentially more supporting documents, such as copies of payroll, business licenses, and more. Check with an ICE agent to make sure you understand which forms are needed, which format they should be presented in, the exact date and time an officer will return to pick up I-9 forms, and other questions you may have.
How is an I-9 Audit Performed?
As an employer, one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for potential notices of inspections is by performing regular I-9 audits. It is recommended to go over your I-9 paperwork once per year with an attorney to make sure you are following all the guidelines. This can allow you to detect and fix discrepancies and mistakes in your I-9 forms, though you must carefully document what changes are made, what date they were made on, and the initials of the person who made those changes. Failure to do so can result in more charges for tampering with federal documents.
To perform an I-9 Audit, follow these steps:
- Round up all of your company's I-9 forms
- Collect I-9 forms from employees who are missing them
- Check each I-9 form for accuracy
- Make appropriate corrections using proper protocols
- Organize I-9 forms and notes taken about audit procedures in a clear, logical manner
Performing these steps at regular intervals will make a notice of inspection much less of a headache, as you will be prepared to hand over accurate, up-to-date documents without having to scramble at the last minute.
If you are performing an I-9 audit as the result of a notice of inspection, it is imperative that you document everything that you turn over to an ICE agent. The best way to do this is by making complete copies and taking diligent notes.
What are Potential Responses to an I-9 Notice of Inspection?
After you have handed in the proper paperwork, ICE will investigate your documentation, and let you know what they found. Below is a list of potential responses you may get from your I-9 inspection:
Notice of Inspected Results
A letter signifying that your company is compliant.
Notice of Suspected Documents
One or more employees was found not to be eligible to work. ICE allows businesses to turn in additional documentation if they believe it was an error; otherwise, the company must terminate the employee or face fines.
Notice of Discrepancies
ICE agents were unable to verify one or more employees’ eligibility status, so employers must notify the employee(s) and turn in more documentation to prove their eligibility.
Notice of Technical or Procedural Failures
Some violations were found, but employers have ten business days to correct these errors.
The I-9 documentation contained significant errors, but none that warrant fines. Employers are expected to fully comply moving forward.
Notice of Intent to Fine
Your company will receive a fine for significant, uncorrected errors in documentation or knowingly hiring ineligible individuals.
How We Can Help
Getting hit with an I-9 audit can cause major headaches for an employer, especially if employee files have not been kept organized and up-to-date. Fortunately, you do not have to worry about I-9 audits if you work with a Professional Employer Organization. PEOs can handle the entire I-9 process for you, allowing you to stay focused on what matters most to you within your business.
ZampHr offers comprehensive and easy-to-use tools to help you manage your employee onboarding process, payroll, documentation and more. If you'd like to learn more about how we can help you manage your I-9's, or anything else, please contact us today.