With Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations estimated to have quadrupled in recent years, it has never been more important for companies to begin developing an I-9 compliance plan. Per the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers have the responsibility to make sure employees are Form I-9 compliant and therefore eligible to work in the United States. By developing an I-9 compliance plan, companies can establish crucial proactive efforts that may help them avoid common obstacles to achieving a compliant status.
6 Steps to Developing an I-9 Compliance Plan
The purpose of a company developing an I-9 compliance plan is to aid employees and employers in performing the proper compliance protocol, which should ensure employees’ identities are verified and employment is accurately authorized.
When it comes to developing an I-9 compliance plan, companies may find the following six proactive steps to be helpful in achieving and maintaining a compliant status:
- Present each employee with a Form I-9
- Closely follow the steps and guidelines listed on the Form I-9
- Meet deadlines for all three sections of the Form I-9
- Ensure timely follow-up for soon to be expired I-9 documentation
- Follow proper document retention guidelines
- Enlist the help of additional resources such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Handbook for Employers M-275 and digital I-9 software
Understanding the Form I-9
The Form I-9 is the foundation for an employer’s compliance process. Without a proper understanding of this form, employers are putting a company’s compliant status at risk. The form is broken out into three main sections to verify an employee’s identity and employment eligibility.
- Section 1: This first section of the Form I-9 requires employees to input personal information in a complete and accurate manner by the first day of employment. Employers must then review the form for errors such as the absence of any blank or incomplete fields and missing signatures.
- Section2: The second part of the Form I-9 generally addresses employer review of documents and verification. Within three business days of an employee’s first day on the job, the law specifies employees must provide approved Form I-9 identification documents that employers will then in good faith examine and, if appropriate, vouch for their authenticity.
- Section 3: The third and final section of the Form I-9 pertains to reverifications and rehires. It is typically completed in the case that an employee’s name has legally changed, a work authorization has expired, or a rehire has occurred within three years of the date listed on the original Form I-9.
Why Employers Should Take I-9 Compliance Seriously
Aside from the fact that it is federal law, employers should willingly work to achieve I-9 compliance for the sake of their business. Depending on the nature and number of Form I-9 violations, consequences can cost more than just money.
The two main types of violations are criminal and civil. Criminal violations can be assigned to an employer with an established pattern of recruiting, hiring, or referring individuals unauthorized to work in the United States for a fee. Civil violations generally pertain to committing document fraud, discriminating against employment authorized individuals, knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien for employment or continuing to employ that individual.
Each violation can be subject to consequence and is treated on a case by case basis. This means that for every employee that is found not to be Form I-9 compliant, a violation can be assigned. In cases where a company has not been developing an I-9 compliance plan and there are multiple errors, the company could be subject to a series of hefty punitive fines, a partial or complete loss of workforce, or even the loss of a business license.
How Digital I-9 Software Can Help
Although the Form I-9 can initially appear to be straightforward, many employers find the various guidelines, deadlines, and responsibilities of the form make the process complex, and with stern consequences for violations, many companies are choosing to enlist the help of digital I-9 software.
This type of software can help keep employers organized and efficient during the entire process, through the hiring, reverification, and document retention stages. Digital I-9 software is designed to help a company developing an I-9 compliance plan achieve and maintain a compliant status.
While these software programs can vary in individual features, companies should expect the following from the digital I-9 software they select:
- This software is designed to be user friendly which is why it offers a printable checklist that can be handed to employees in advance, so there is no confusion about the information on the Form I-9. A checklist for employers should also be available to keep each employee’s Form I-9 process on track.
- The software allows the Form I-9 to be digitized. In doing so, the program should be able to more easily catch common human errors such as incomplete or blank fields, as well as missing signatures.
- Document and Expiration Reminders. Digital I-9 software programs should provide companies with timely automatic reminders to help employers stay on top of document deadlines and expiration dates.
- Centralized Reporting. The software should also allow near effortless management that will allow a snapshot of a company’s compliance status at any given time, instead of waiting for an official audit.
By developing an I-9 compliance plan and utilizing additional resources such as digital I-9 software, employers can have more confidence and peace of mind in the process from start to finish.
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