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ICE Steps Up Random I-9 Audits: Employers, Are You Prepared?

Although all employers with workers in the United States are required to complete an I-9 for each employee, employers often give little thought to proper completion of this deceptively simple form. Failing to complete the form, or completing it incorrectly, however, can subject the employer to civil or criminal fines and penalties. Employers hoping to avoid that problem should take note: the number of random I-9 audits conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has risen dramatically over the past few years. Once an employer gets audited, there is very little time to comply with ICE’s request for I-9 forms and copies of documentation, and both technical and substantive violations can result in liability.

Employers should act to ensure that everything is in place in the (more and more likely) event of an audit. The I-9 form itself seems fairly straightforward, but there are many things that can go wrong. These range from completing the form incorrectly, to improperly mandating use of specific documentation, to failing to redo the form when temporary work authorization expires and is renewed, to failing to maintain I-9 records properly. Even using the wrong version of the form can create problems.

On the front end, ensuring that I-9 forms are completed correctly and original documentation is provided, reviewed, and copied is an important first step. Ongoing review of existing I-9 forms is also prudent. Steps an employer can take include centralized maintenance of I-9 forms and supporting documentation as well as periodic self-audits. Even with the best of intentions, however, it is often useful for employers to have another set of eyes review its I-9 process, to ensure that it is conducted accurately. The attorneys at Tydings & Rosenberg can help with many I-9 issues including conducting internal audits, helping to verify documentation, answering questions about the duration and scope of temporary work authorization, and assisting with other issues as they may arise.

Being proactive can save an employer time and money when faced with an ICE audit. Take steps now to ensure that the only surprise is seeing ICE walk through the door, not what they find when they arrive. For more information about I-9s and how Tydings & Rosenberg can help, please contact Melissa Jones.