Employers in the United States must require their new hires to show identification and evidence of authorization to work in the United States. This law is prescribed by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”). In addition, every employer must document compliance with this statutory obligation by having every new employee fill out Immigration Form known as an I-9. The employer is charged with retaining their I-9 forms and supporting documents for an established period of time.
An employer who fails to comply with this legal obligation could face steep fines for each infraction. Fines can be up to $1,000 for each employee’s paperwork violation and up to $10,000 for each case where the government proves that the person hired was unauthorized to work. Knowingly hiring unauthorized workers may also impose criminal penalties. Moreover, the employer could also face discriminatory complaints about mishandling the information or the documents in support of a Form I-9. In other words, if you are an employer in the United States it is best to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who could guide you in implementing the effective I-9 compliance strategies in order to avoid any potential sanctions and liability in the future.
The form itself has three sections. The first section must be completed by the new employee on the first day of employment. In this section, the employee will add his biographical information and also a declaration of his authorization to work in the United States. The second section asks the employer to verify which documents were used to corroborate both the employee’s identity and authorization to work within three days after hiring every new employee. The USCIS provides an extensive list of qualified documents which could be used by the employee to establish identity, employment authorization, or both. Examples of acceptable documents include a U.S. passport, permanent resident card, passport, visa, and I-94, etc. The third section of the form is for employees who are rehired, or who need their employment authorization re-verified at a later date. In addition to filling out Form I-9, every company must also retain the completed I-9 forms in an organized and consistent manner to comply with the law.
Every company or human resource personnel should be familiar with this important legal requirement. An experienced immigration attorney could guide you in implementing a consistent approach to Form I-9 and an organized recordkeeping process. IRCA investigators have the ability to conduct audits not only to verify you are meeting the requirement of filing out Form I-9 for every employee and verifying the employee’s supporting documents, but also that you retain each form according to IRCA’s provisions. ICE is the agency that conducts IRCA audits, and generally, once you receive a notice of audit, you do not have much time to respond. ICE audits have increased significantly over the past few years.
Another important aspect in protecting your business, while fulfilling your obligations under IRCA, is avoiding any potential discrimination lawsuits you may face by the employee. Therefore, it is crucial to have all human resources personnel and, particularly every person handling this process within your company, trained by an experienced immigration attorney on best legal practices.
At Weinstock Immigration Attorneys we have conducted dozens of I-9 audits and have defended clients during an I-9 audit, and therefore we have the experience necessary to guide you through this process to help you avoid any disastrous consequences for your business. If you need to get your I-9 paperwork in order, call us today. We will determine the best strategy to get your I-9 immigration compliance in order and minimize your risks.