The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires that all U.S. employers verify the identity and employment eligibility of all workers, whether they are U.S. citizens or not, by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. A company that fails to comply with Form I-9 requirements may face audits, fines, and even criminal prosecution.
In recent years, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, has increased the number of workplace I-9 audits and enforcement actions in an effort to decrease the number of illegal workers in the United States. The number of criminal prosecutions of employers found to be in violation of I-9 employment eligibility verification has also risen steadily over the past few years.
With stricter immigration reform efforts, it is essential that every U.S. employer ensure that they engage in proper Form I-9 intake and retention. And it’s not just the hiring of unauthorized workers that can expose an employer to potential liability. Fines are often assessed due to simple “paperwork” errors or technical violations if an employer fails to properly fill out or retain their I-9s. The base penalties for paperwork violations on Form I-9 now range from $252 to $2,507 per form—numbers that can result in six-figure fines in the event of an ICE audit. Penalties can increase for unlawful employment of an unauthorized worker, with penalties ranging from $627-$5,016 per unauthorized alien on first offense.
Phillips Lytle can help businesses avoid or minimize such fines by ensuring proper Form I-9 compliance procedures. Our attorneys regularly provide counsel to employers on Form I-9 completion and compliance, perform internal audits of I-9 forms, and train employees on how to properly complete and store Form I-9 records. We also assist employers on responses to Form I-9 notices of inspection, notices of intent to fine, raids and criminal enforcement actions.
Our employment attorneys specialize in assisting businesses and employers with the proper Form I-9 employment eligibility verification, along with other matters related to Form I-99 and employment authorization. These specialties in employment eligibility verification ensure that our clients avoid the audits, fines and other penalties that can be levied by enforcement agencies like the Department of Homeland Security.