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How Good Are Your I-9s?

January 2014

By: Melissa Calhoon Jones

In March 2013, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) updated the I-9 form. This update changed the I-9 in numerous ways, further complicating a process that few employers successfully managed when the form was only one page long.

Subsequently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a fact sheet on the I-9 inspection process. This fact sheet also provides detailed information about penalties for violations of I-9 procedures and the knowing employment of individuals who are not work authorized.

Every year, ICE announces that it is increasing its efforts to audit I-9 compliance, and we know from watching the ICE headlines that it targets employers of all sizes, in all industries. In addition to ICE, the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) investigates charges of document abuse in the I-9 process, including, citizenship/immigration status discrimination, national origin discrimination, and retaliation/intimidation.

Numerous cases involving document abuse have been reported this year by OSC. Document abuse cases, which arise during the verification of work authorization, often involve situations in which employers have (1) mandated which documents employees may present for I-9 processing, (2) required additional documents from immigrants and not from U.S. citizens, and (3) required permanent residents to re-verify work authorization.

To avoid these violations, employers should take care to comply with all procedural and timing requirements when processing I-9s, allow employees to present the eligibility/identity documents of their choice (from the approved list on the I-9 form), and not use the I-9 as a pre-offer screening tool.

Here are some recommendations for effective management of the I-9 process:

  • Ensure that the person charged with processing I-9s for your company is trained in the I-9 process and is using the correct form (available for download at
  • Keep completed I-9s in a central location (binder or file), not in employee personnel files.
  • Regularly review completed I-9s for current employees to ensure that they are complete, correct, and timely updated when re-verifying temporary work authorization or after re-hire.
  • Correct technical violations when found, to the extent permitted by law.
  • Retain completed I-9s only for the time required by law.

If you need assistance with the I-9, including:

  • completing the new I-9 form,
  • correcting technical violations on existing I-9s,
  • arranging I-9 training for your staff,
  • obtaining an audit of your files,
  • dealing with notice of an audit,

or with any other employment or immigration matters, please contact Melissa Jones via email or 410-752-9765.

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