The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently penalized a clothing manufacturer based in New Jersey with a $625,000 fine for Form I-9 violations. Employers should take note that I-9 compliance audits are not out-of-the-ordinary for ICE, and that the penalties can be (and often are) quite steep. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted that penalties for Form I-9 violations can range from $110 to $1,100 per form. Furthermore, if a company is found to be hiring or continuing to employ a person that is not authorized to work in the United States, the penalties jump to a range of $375 to $16,000 per unauthorized worker.
Taking note that ICE audits are on the rise, and with employers suffering the consequences of large civil penalties, many employers are now choosing to take advantage of electronic I-9 platforms. United States Law 1986. 8 C.F.R. § 274a.2 mandates that employers are required to process and retain original Form I-9s for all current employees. Additionally, employers are required to retain Form I-9s for all former employees for a period of at least three years from the date of hire, or for a period of one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer.
Processing and storing paper Form I-9s may present many risks, challenges, and unnecessary labor expenditures to employers who want to be best-prepared to face an ICE audit. A good electronic I-9 system will prompt employers to complete all fields required on the Form I-9. A paper Form I-9 has no such prompts, and the employer is left having to utilize his own knowledge to complete the form. There is a huge perk of uniformity with a good electronic I-9 platform that is hard to match with a paper I-9 system. It may be difficult for employers who use paper Form I-9s to keep track of all of the documentation, and to know with a sense of certainty that all of their paper Form I-9s are in once place, and that there aren’t a dozen sitting in someone’s desk drawer the office down the hall, or that the HR rep who retired last week didn’t accidentally take one or two home with him. A solid electronic I-9 system keeps all Form I-9s in a single location, and allows customizable user access so that an employer can turn off/on and/or limit an employee’s access to the electronic Form I-9s as business needs necessitate.
It is also much easier for employers to search Form I-9s using an electronic storage system than it is for employers to search a paper Form I-9 archive. Employers who are told by the ICE to produce certain Form I-9s within 72 hours in the event of an audit would face a much less momentous task searching by name in an electronic interface than they would if they had to dig through hundreds and/or thousands of paper Form I-9s looking for the ones ICE has requested. Organizationally, electronic I-9 systems also have the upper hand. If business locations move, or if internal organizational changes have been made, it is much easier for a company to simply rearrange electronic user access with a few clicks of the mouse, than to have to physically move paper Form I-9s from one building to another, or even from one state to another. Another advantage electronic I-9s is that a reputable electronic I-9 system will alert employers when document expiration dates are approaching, and when re-verifications are necessary. There is also a reduced risk in document fraud, as well-rounded electronic I-9 systems will alert employers when a duplicate SSN has been entered. Overall, electronic I-9 systems present efficiency and compliance solutions that paper form I-9s, by their very physical limitations, simply cannot provide.
Whereas the aforementioned federal law exists regarding Form I-9s, there are also many state-specific laws that require the use of E-Verify to confirm an employee’s work eligibility within the United States. Employment Background Investigations, Inc. offers an E-Verify State Legislation Map with an overview of state-specific E-Verify laws that may be of assistance to employers who are considering the use of E-Verify. Employers seeking a comprehensive solution to their I-9 and E-Verify needs may consider choosing an electronic I-9 platform that seamlessly combines the electronic I-9 process with E-Verify case processing and management.
Employment Background Investigations, Inc. is committed to providing employers with valuable education, news and resources around background screening, drug testing, occupational healthcare and employment eligibility. All content provided by EBI is published for the convenience of its readers and should never be deemed as legal guidance or advice. Always consult your legal counsel for specific advice on local laws and industry regulations.
Contact EBI to learn more about our employment eligibility solutions. EBI offers electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions to employers. EBI is a proud supporter and an approved designated Employer Agent through the Department of Homeland Security.