In 2015, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a joint memo offering guidance to employers when conducting internal Form I-9 audits.
The DOJ and DHS guidance provides employers with the scope and purpose of I-9 audits, considerations before conducting internal audits, and ways to correct errors, omissions, or other deficiencies. They also advise about E-Verify query deficiencies and the anti-discrimination statutory requirements for employers when conducting I-9 audits.
Federal immigration agents review I-9 forms for evidence of fraud, abuse, or discrimination in hiring practices. There are specific protocols that all I-9 audits should follow.
ICE often uses I-9 audits to find employers who violate federal law or regulation by hiring unauthorized workers through fraudulent I-9 forms. Employers found in violation can face legal challenges and investigations from DHS or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Employers have to keep all I-9 forms on file for at least three years from the hiring date or one year after the individual is no longer employed, whichever comes later. These time limits apply whether or not the employee is authorized to work in the United States. If employers cannot find I-9 records, they will have serious trouble proving the legal status of an employee and incur steep fines, even if the company is not solely responsible.
Companies should check the viability of their hiring systems for I-9 compliance, as this can be the root cause of an issue. Auditing I-9 forms and documents are the best way for companies to ensure that all I-9 forms are complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Taking these steps minimizes the risks of penalties. Employers who conduct I-9 audits should consult with an attorney to ensure full compliance. Otherwise, companies put themselves at serious risk of violating federal law and regulation.