Within the U.S. business world, employers must meet the demands of the federal government and comply with the provisions listed under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”) of 1986. The IRCA requires employers and their employees to complete an Employment Eligibility Verification (“EEV”) Form I-9, which verifies the legal eligibility for a newly hired employee to work in the U.S.
However, the process isn’t over after simply completing the form. In recent years, the federal government has increased the number of I-9 subpoenas conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents. It entails the thorough inspection of employer records, employees’ work authorization, compliance with I-9 laws, and the overall work environment. San Antonio’s Perez & Malik, PLLC Immigration Lawyers have dealt with employment authorization and I-9 cases, providing counsel to employers on best practices that will help avoid costly mistakes and potential criminal charges.
Here are just a few basic tips for employers to follow:
1. Fill out Form I-9 Correctly and Thoroughly
Employees must complete Section 1 of the form on or before their date of hire. Unintentional omissions or inaccuracies can incur penalties ranging from a minimum of $110 to a maximum of $1,100 for each occurrence. You may also complete the I-9 electronically, but keep in mind that technical software errors not in your control can affect a multitude of I-9 forms, which can put your company at risk for fines.
2. Hire an Attorney to Conduct Internal Audits
Most employers fail to detect errors in their employee I-9s until a sudden government subpoena, in which you are normally given 3 days to hand over all records. Even a company with an entire EEV authorized workforce can accumulate harsh penalties for the most innocuous mistakes on the Form I-9. An internal audit is one of the best practices of defense against ICE audits and penalties. An independent auditor, such as an attorney, rather than an employer, should conduct it; employers risk making mistakes if they decide to self-audit. Employers should be advised that ICE agents will also check to see if a work environment conforms to OSHA and the Department of Labor regulations. Many companies have suffered severe penalties following I-9 audits, i.e. Abercrombie & Fitch was fined over $1 million after a 2008 I-9 audit uncovered technical-related inaccuracies in the company’s electronic records.
3. Avoid Discrimination in Recruiting and Hiring
Employers should familiarize themselves with IRCA’s anti-discrimination provisions, which prohibit employers from hiring individuals based on their national origin, citizenship, or immigration status. Employers must also avoid requesting for documentation before an employee is hired. Once an employee is hired, fills out a Form I-9, and provides the required documentation, an employer cannot request additional documentation. If an employer does this, he or she may be liable for discrimination against the employee’s national origin and citizenship status.
Contact San Antonio’s Perez & Malik, PLLC experienced Immigration Lawyers to learn about the best practices regarding the I-9 process and develop suitable compliance program for your company.