Will you be ready when ICE knocks?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a law enforcement agency of the federal government under the Department of Homeland Security tasked to enforce immigration laws. The current administration has kept its promise to make immigration enforcement a priority. According to the agency, ICE worksite enforcement investigations are up 300% YOY. This year, employers are likely to see an increase of more than 100% in worksite investigations.

An estimated 76% of paper I-9s are missing, incomplete or have errors. Each employer is responsible for completing this form for every employee and is liable for every Form I-9 in its possession.

Steps to Prepare and establish good-faith measures.

In order to not be caught off guard, there are three simple steps that can help prevent problems and have a positive impact, such as mitigating possible fines, if an investigation finds any I-9 errors.

Form I-9 is comprised of three pages. The first page is to be completed by the new hire employee, the second page is to be completed by the employer, and the third page is a list of documents acceptable to complete the second page.

Step One- Create a Procedures Manual for Forms I-9

Similar to creating any new procedure, it is important to first describe all parties involved regarding a process. In this case, is typically the new employee and HR or the business owner. The next step is to describe the party’s responsibilities and to define a communication process regarding Forms I-9.

Within this procedure, it is imperative to include who can serve as a Section 2 completer. It is recommended to use third party agents such as consultants or notary publics as an option. An important note for this step is that not every new hire will bring the same documents, typically a driver’s license and social security. The Section 2 completer must accept any valid combination of identification and employment authorization documents authorized on the third page of Form I-9.

In some cases, the re-verification of documents is necessary. This typically happens to employees who have a visa work authorization. The employer should notify the affected employee at least three months before expiring that he or she will need to present new List A or List C documents.

Step Two- Training for Section 2 Completers

The Form I-9 regulations and forms change regularly. It is important to keep Section 2 completers updated to ensure accuracy.

Mandatory training should occur at least once a year to train new personnel and advice every Section 2 completer about annual changes. If Section 2 completers can not attend the training, allow for other options to complete the training such as recording the training followed by a quiz as proof of attendance.

The training can be focused on situations known to be challenges to the company such as: late submissions, accuracy or specific documentation

Step Three- Conduction a Self-Audit

Typically, ICE gives employers 72 hours’ notice before an audit. A self- audit can help a company identify and correct problems to avoid penalties.

For a self-audit, it is important to have all Section 2 completers present and all Forms I-9. Next, purge all the forms that no longer need to be retained. Only keep forms for three years after date of hire or one year after the departure of an employee (whichever is later).

Make sure all Forms are present and identify any missing forms. Then, identify issues and make corrections. Employees should only make correction to Section 1 and any Section 2 completer can make changes to any form. If there are too many errors, complete a new Form I-9 and keep the original. Throughout the audit, maintain a detail trail noting changes made and by whom.