I-9 Audits

immigration-stamp.jpgChristina Bauer, Specialized Legal Services

Are your CEO and CFO concerned by the articles in the trade press about ongoing audits of I-9 forms by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? Or are they asking you whether you have any undocumented workers on the payroll after hearing the political talk on the news or at a cocktail party about shutting down the jobs magnet for “illegal” workers? Are you being asked what your company’s potential liability is for I-9 fines? How do you respond?

One of the best things you can do is to audit the I-9 forms that you have in the drawer. It could be that you want to slam that drawer shut as fast as possible because at least half of the forms are incomplete or completed in ways that you suspect are wrong, but maybe there is another way forward.

The primary auditing agency for the I-9 forms is ICE. ICE auditors report that they find error rates of about 50 percent and higher in most I-9 audits of U.S. companies. When audited, the average fine per form will be in the middle of the allowed range for paperwork violations, or about $500 or $550 per form. This is for forms where the documents are not adequately described, where the names of either the employee or the company are incorrectly completed, where the date of hire is not inserted into the Section 2 certification, and the like. More serious violations, like undated forms, missing signatures, failure to complete or only partially completed I-9s will result in fines near the top of the range, that is around $1,000 per form. These are just the potential paperwork violations. ICE imposes higher fines where undocumented workers are identified during the audit.

What to do if you do not have the time or the expertise to audit these forms in-house?

MSEC offers an I-9 audit service through its Human Resources Professional Services (HRPS) staff, under the general supervision of MSEC’s immigration attorneys. This is a for-fee service charged on the basis of the number of forms to be reviewed and the level of services you request. It covers three areas of review: trends and issues discovered in your company’s I-9 practices, identification of specific issues with specific forms, and suggestions for changes to your I-9 practices and correction of issues observed. Audits can cover I-9 forms, Colorado affirmation forms, and E-Verify forms. 

If you’re interested in an I-9 audit, please contact email hrmanager@msec.org or call 800.884.1328 for details. We can discuss the types of services the HRPS staff can provide, the cost of each component, and provide you with a quote for the job you have in mind.