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Immigration Violation Penalties Hiked

By Bryan Little, FELS COO

August 11, 2016

The U.S. government is substantially increasing monetary penalties for employers hiring people not authorized to work in the U.S. and for discriminating against immigrant workers will be increased to keep up with inflation, according to an announcement June 30, 2016 by the federal departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Labor.

The increased penalties were announced for unlawful employment of immigrant workers; violations related to the use of Forms I-9; immigration-related discriminatory employment practices; and violations of requirements related to the H-2A and H-2B temporary non-immigrant visa foreign worker programs.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act, which became law in November 2015, requires federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties with an initial “catch up” adjustment through an interim final rulemaking by July 1, 2016, with the penalty levels to take effect no later than August 1, 2016.  

The Act also requires federal agencies to make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation. Starting in January 2017, federal agencies are required to publish in the Federal Register annual inflation adjustments for civil penalties and must do so no later than January 15 of each year.

The new minimum penalty imposed by the Justice Department for the unlawful employment of immigrant workers will rise from $375 to $539, while the maximum fine will increase from $3,200 to $4,313. Violators facing multiple charges will face a maximum penalty of $21,563.

The new rules raise fines for Form I-9 paperwork violations increases from a a maximum of $1,100 to $2,156. The minimum penalty per violation increases from $110 to $216.  

The new top penalty for immigration-related employment discrimination increases to $3,563 per instance, up from $3,200. The minimum penalty increases from $375 to $445.

H-2A program users will be assessed a $1,631 penalty for each violation of an H-2A worker's contract or of the program's statutory or regulatory requirements. Penalties for willful violations of the worker’s contract or the H-2A program's statutory or regulatory requirements will increase to as much as $5,491 per violation. For housing or transportation violations that lead to the death or serious injury of any H-2A worker, the employer will be fined up to $54,373 per worker. Willful or repeated violations that result in serious injury or death can bring a penalty of up to $108,745 per worker. Failure to cooperate in an investigation could result in a penalty of up to $5,491 per violation. If an employer lays off, displaces or improperly declines to employ a U.S. worker in favor of an H-2A worker, the penalty will be raised to up to a maximum of $16,312 per violation per worker.