Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has really upped its game. According to an article in USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2012/12/23/audits-illegal-immigrants/1787213/), “Audits of employer forms increased from 250 in fiscal year 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2012. From fiscal years 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines grew to nearly $13 million from $1 million. The number of company managers arrested has increased to 238, according to data provided by ICE.”
Looks like the days of comfortable disregard for the I-9 process are over. Things are heating up and we can no longer believe it couldn’t happen to us when the truth is ICE audits are occurring at an ever-increasing and very expensive rate. They are taking a good long look at every crossed T and dotted I- missing something could mean a hefty fine. So what can we do:
- First thing is to make sure you and any employees that are charged with filling out the form are educated in the proper procedures. There are various ways to get the information ranging from the instructions from ICE to YouTube videos to training seminars- find what will work best for you but don’t delay because every mistake could cost you between $110-$1100 (the average employer fine in 2012 was $11,000-not including attorney fees.)
- Then conduct a self-audit to find as many correctable errors as possible. Once again, there are tons of resources instructing you how to handle this and once again, don’t delay. The audit period covers a three-year period so this could potentially be a very grueling and time-consuming process. Human nature makes us want to avoid anything this uncomfortable but DO NOT wait. Once you get the NOI (Notice of Inspection), it is kind of late in the game to try to get your affairs in order and it will appear that you are only complying because you are trying to avoid fines (which of course is true) as opposed to simply doing the right thing. ICE does look at employers acting in good faith through this so even if you are fined, it will likely be a lot less if you can show you made an honest effort to be compliant.
- If the idea of conducting an audit is just overwhelming to you, please consider hiring a professional to help. This will be money well spent and will save you a lot of headaches (and a lot of money) should ICE come calling.
Once you know you have a strong knowledge on how to properly complete the form and have cleaned up any past transgressions, start completing annual self-audits (much easier than the first time to be sure). That way, when ICE shows up, you will be one Cool Cat!