Although an I-9 form may seem like a simple piece of hiring paperwork, there are many rules and regulations that must be followed in regards to this form. Employers that fail to complete and maintain I-9 documentation correctly may fall out of compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and suffer harsh financial penalties. Fines for I-9 errors begin at $110 dollars per error, and climb to tens of thousands of dollars per error for repeat and grave offenses. If an employer has one form per employee and multiple mistakes on each form, the financial penalties could quickly escalate into six or seven figures. To avoid the potentially high costs of an I-9 violation, employers should keep these six common I-9 processing errors in mind:
1. Incorrect or Missing Forms: Common I-9 documentation mistakes include incorrect dates, missing signatures, transposed information and incomplete check boxes. Employers also sometimes fail to complete an I-9 form altogether, or misplace a completed form during filing. Another challenge that employers face is recording the correct document codes for each identification method. If an employer asks for too many identifying documents from list A or lists B and C, that could expose the employer to discrimination allegations. On the other hand, asking for too few documents could result in an incomplete form violation.
2. Out of Compliance with the Three-Day Rule: ICE rules mandate that I-9 forms must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of work. If an employer fails to meet the three-day deadline, it could result in hefty fines.
3. Failure to Re-verify: For employees of certain citizenship statuses, employers will need to track and update the employee’s supporting I-9 documentation. For example, a work-authorized alien will provide documentation showing their eligibility to work in the United States. This supporting documentation includes an expiration date, and it is the employer’s responsibility to monitor that date and request new documentation prior to the document’s expiration.
4. Invalid Identifying Documents: Employers must check that all necessary documents are presented and valid. If an employer fails to obtain the right combination of identifying documents from lists A, B or C, the I-9 documentation will be considered incomplete and the employer will become subject to fines.
5. Improper Document Maintenance: ICE rules do not require employers to maintain I-9 forms either one year after the date of termination, of three years after the date of hire, whichever is greater. Purging outdated forms can help businesses free up storage space and protects the sensitive information of previous employees. If an employer fails to destroy I-9 forms within the outlined time frame, then that employer could be subject to fines. In addition, if an employer is audited and has not destroyed outdated I-9 documentation, any errors found on those outdated forms will also be subject to fines.
6. Lack of Supporting Documentation for E-Verify Photo Matching: In 2010, E-Verify introduced photo matching as a way to prevent employees from using false identifying documents. For passports, passport cards, permanent resident cards and employee authorization cards the E-Verify system will require employers to compare the document photo with an onscreen photo as an additional security measure. ICE also mandates that employers must maintain a copy of the employee’s photo identification as a supporting I-9 document. Since the E-Verify photo matching is a newer measure, it is likely that a majority of affected employers are not aware of the additional requirement to keep a copy of a photo I.D. on file. Any employer who fails to maintain a copy of a photo I.D. as a supporting document will be in violation and could be subject to fines.
If you have any questions about I-9 requirements and/or compliance, please contact us!