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Is Your Company Next? 10 Tips to Help Prepare for an ICE I-9 Audit

By Kim Thompson

In June, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a strategic plan for work site enforcement through fiscal year 2014. One of the key initiatives of the plan is enforcement of U.S. immigration-related employment laws, in particular pursuing employers who knowingly violate the laws. Sample ICE Notification of I-9 Inspection Letter to Employer with Instructions

ICE intends to create a "culture of compliance" through education, I-9 audits and investigations, and criminal and civil sanctions. Certain industries, such as agriculture, construction, hospitality, and food processing, can expect to be targeted for these actions, although no company will be immune.

Here are 10 tips to help protect your company and limit exposure for I-9 violations:

  1. Keep I-9 forms in a separate binder for current employees and another for terminated employees. Do not keep I-9 forms in employee personnel files.
  2. Print a list of all current employees, including name and date of hire.
  3. Ensure that you are using the correct version of the I-9 form.
  4. When completing the I-9 form for a new hire, do not accept any document with an expiration date that has expired.
  5. Do not re-verify U.S. passports or passport cards, Permanent Resident or Resident Alien Cards, or List B Identity documents.
  6. Ensure that you re-verify expiring work authorization documents before they expire and do not allow an employee to continue to work after his or her work authorization document expires.
  7. Conduct a self-audit of your I-9 forms to make sure they are correctly completed.
  8. Do not engage in discrimination or document abuse when completing the I-9 form process.
  9. If the document(s) presented by the employee is on the List of Acceptable Documents, reasonably appears to be genuine and relates to the person presenting it, you may accept that document to complete Section 2 of the I-9 form.
  10. Know your rights! If ICE appears to review your I-9 forms and conduct an audit, insist on a written Notice of Inspection and your right to have three business days before you turn over your original I-9 forms.

Make sure that the individuals in your company who complete the I-9 process are properly trained and that you regularly audit I-9 compliance. Create your own culture of compliance and be ready to respond to an ICE audit with confidence.

(Reprinted with author's permission, all rights reserved, Copyright 2007-2010 Fisher & Phillips LLP)