Best Practices for I-9 Compliance to Ensure a Successful DHS Audit

Robert Capwell

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department of homeland security i-9Your company's I-9 compliance should be treated as sacred as its mission statement, corporate vision, employee handbook, or any other policy or procedure used to ensure the continued success of your business.  Hiring ineligible or undocumented workers at your workplace could have grave affects on your business and its financial success.  The Federal Immigration and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 prohibits U.S. businesses from hiring unauthorized immigrants or ineligible workers and that is the bottom line.  A Texas-based technology consulting and outsourcing company learned the hard way and recently settled for a record $34 million dollar civil lawsuit with the U.S. government for systemic visa fraud and abuse of the immigration processes.  Think about a scenario when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) arrives at your business and detains several undocumented workers as part of a raid or even in a response to a routine Notice of Inspection (NOI).  Could a significant loss of workforce put you out of business?  In addition, DHS fines and penalties are significant and range anywhere from $375 to $16,000 per employee violation.  Anyone with a pattern or practice of hiring, recruiting or referring unauthorized aliens can even be put in jail for 6 months.

Best Practices For Proper I-9 Compliance

Achieving proper I-9 compliance can only be accomplished through proper training and awareness.  Employees charged with the task of I-9 compliance need to be well informed and receive ongoing training.  The DHS provides several resources for employers to follow. The most inclusive resource is the “Handbook for Employers Guidance for Completing Form I-9” also known as the M-274 Handbook.  The handbook includes information on completing forms and documentation, ID verification resources, document retention strategies, E-Verify compliance and an extensive Q & A section.  This document should be the foundation for any I-9 compliance program.

Here are a few common mistakes and best practice tips to help keep your Form I-9 program compliant:

  • Create a written I-9 policy that includes how forms are completed, when completed and how they are retained.
  • Conduct internal training to ensure that employees responsible for this function are well informed and understand anti-discrimination protocols.
  • Consider using a SSN verification service such as the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS), a Consent-Based SSN Verification (CBSV).
  • Be sure that all Form I-9s are complete, accurate, signed and properly stored.
  • Don’t forget that an I-9 must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of work.  Be sure to remind new hires to provide or bring appropriate identification documents to work so you can complete the process and maintain proper identification documents accordingly.
  • Don’t forget that you will need to re-verify the work status eligibility of certain employees who have temporary worker status. 
  • Document maintenance is important and federal guidelines require that you maintain a Form I-9 for workers either one year after the date of termination, or three years after the date of hire, whichever is greater. 
  • Consider a yearly internal audit to verify that the entire process is working smoothly and stays compliant.
  • Always consult with HR legal counsel and immigration experts on a periodic basis to review procedures and any changes in federal, state or local laws.
  • Consider a vendor that offers both a Form I-9 process and an E-Verify verification combined into one paperless and compliant software platform.

Best Practice Solutions for Automated and Streamlined I-9 and E-Verify Compliance

Many of the best practices described above can be achieved through an automated, paperless and compliant process.  The use of a secure and integrated I-9 and E-Verify solution can save you time and can keep you compliant.

Here are a few of the integrated solutions that can help:

  • User-friendly Internet based systems that provide automated form completion workflows along with automated error detecting fields that flag errors or missing information throughout the process.
  • The ability to convert a paper-based process easily into a completely paperless solution.
  • A real-time integration of a paperless I-9 process into many background screening, HRIS or other automated payroll solutions.
  • Configurable and instantaneous E-Verify submissions with the flexibility to use E-Verify only when applicable or for certain hires as they relate to contractual obligations or federal contract compliance.
  • The use of an audit trail history to generate user reports or to conduct an internal I-9 compliance audit to ensure federal compliance.
  • The use of a secure platform which includes the use of data encryption and secured storage for confidential and sensitive documents that include PII.
  • Alerts and management reporting that inform you of up-and-coming documentation expiration dates.
  • Purging documents can be a compliance hassle. The use of a paperless integrated process can help maintain, and even purge, documents for you automatically.

An automated paperless I-9 and E-Verify solution can save you time and money and reduce the risks and exposure of federal non-compliance.

Employment Background Investigations, Inc. (EBI) 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 state laws and industry regulations.

EBI offers electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions to employers.  Start off the I-9 process right with every new hire. EBI's Electronic Form I-9 Solution lets you complete, sign and store all the documents electronically, complete with error checking and guidance.  The system will also guide you through the requirements of collecting proper and compliant documentation to prove worker eligibility.  Contact EBI to learn more about our employment eligibility solutions.  EBI is a proud supporter and an approved designated Employer Agent through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

EBI is ISO 27001:2005 Certified – the definitive standard for information security and accredited through the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program.  EBI is the only background screening firm in the world to hold both an ISO 27001:2005 Certification and to be accredited through NAPBS.

Best Practices for i-9 compliance

Form I-9 E-Verify

Robert Capwell

Posted By: Robert Capwell

EBI’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Mr. Robert E. Capwell, is considered one of the leading experts in the background screening industry with over 22 years of experience in the field. Mr. Capwell was a contributing author of the second edition of the ASIS Pre-employment Background Screening Guidelines and has written numerous articles and whitepapers for various publications including a periodic column on background screening for The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Online. He has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Human Resource Executive Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and several HR-related publications. Mr. Capwell speaks regularly to industry colleagues and HR Professionals both nationally and internationally.

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