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ICE Triples Number of I-9 Audits, Publishes Guidelines for Employers

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has published guide questions surrounding its workplace inspections and Form I-9 audits, which the agency has been conducting with increasing frequency in the past year.

Employment Eligibility Verification, more commonly known as “Form I-9,” is issued by the federal government and used by employers to verify that an individual has authorization to work in the US. ICE recently disclosed that its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit opened investigations on at least 6,093 worksites between October 1, 2017, and July 20, 2018, more than tripling the total number of investigations made the year before.

A recent operation saw the HSI serving more than 5,200 notices of inspection (NOI), forcing employers across the country to present their I-9 forms along with other documents that need to be produced during ICE audits. HSI issued more than 2,700 NOIs and arrested 32 people between July 16 and July 20, 2018 alone.

Acting executive associate director for HSI, Derek N. Benner, explains that conducting more I-9 audits creates a “culture of compliance” among employers. “All industries, regardless of size, location, and type are expected to comply with the law,” he said.

ICE also published its preemptive response to a number of questions regarding the recent audits.

The agency starts off echoing Benner’s sentiment, claiming that it can conduct a Form I-9 audit on any business. The process of an audit begins with the NOI, which a company must respond to by providing the requested documents within 3 days and, if necessary, having a company representative appear before ICE.

ICE also warned companies that failure to properly complete I-9 forms would result in employer fines ranging between $216 to $2191 per form. Missing signatures, late completion of certain sections of the form, and similar infractions all merit a fine within that range. But if an employer were to be found having knowingly employed an individual without the proper authorization, their fine may reach up to $16,000 per count.

ICE explains that it communicates with companies currently under inspection through a variety of notices, but primarily works with the three listed below:

  • A Notice of Suspect Documents is served to an employer with an employee ICE believes lacks the authorization to work, to which an employer may respond by providing additional documentation.
  • A Notice of Discrepancies is served when an I-9 form is insufficient to determine the employment eligibility of a certain employee, to which that employee must respond by providing additional documentation.
  • Lastly, a Notice of Technical or Procedural Failures informs an employer that ICE found technical violations that can and must be rectified within 10 days in order to avoid escalating these to substantive violations.

ICE advises employers that have not yet undergone audit to review and prepare their documentation as well as their current I-9 policies.

If you want to learn more about I-9 forms, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.

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