Are employment verification services necessary?
More than ever, work authorization is a major concern among government agencies. It’s a concern that isn’t going away anytime soon as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is investigating employers more closely than ever before. And every U.S. employer is susceptible to an ICE investigation, so choosing to ignore the possibility is choosing to take an expensive gamble. This includes everyone, from multinational corporations with locations all over the world (and U.S.), to small businesses operating out of a single location. Companies on both ends of the spectrum, however, can benefit from partnering with an employment verification service. Doing so will ensure the company is I-9 compliant in every way, and I-9 compliance is the backbone of proper work authorization processes.
How aggressive is the government getting with work authorization?
Consider this: In 2017, ICE audited 1,360 organizations in the U.S., and it produced 71 indictments and 55 convictions among those organizations’ managers and owners. In front of an audience at the Heritage Foundation in October, ICE’s acting director claimed that his agency would increase 2018 audits by “four or five times.” This has been the trend for several years, as the federal government increasingly relies on employers as enforcers of proper work authorization.
And given the impressive financial returns the government can gain with tough I-9 auditing, is there any doubt that ICE will increase pressure on employers?
Employment verification services serve as a buffer against potential I-9 auditing. With such a service assisting with I-9 compliance, employers can focus on their business rather than worrying about an ICE audit. This is critical peace of mind, for several reasons.
- Many small business owners are not in compliance – As any business owner knows, there is a mountain of paperwork and red tape that comes with starting a company. Much of this paperwork is fairly innocuous and will likely never be the target of government scrutiny. I-9 forms are different. Though they look like any other piece of paperwork, businesses have a legal obligation to fill them out and keep them updated.There is no flexibility in how employers handle their I-9 forms. They must be completely accurate (even a typo is grounds for a fine), filled out within a tight deadline, and kept safe for years. Failing any of these steps means the business is not in I-9 compliance, and it’s extremely easy for a small business owner, who has to juggle many aspects of their company, to make a mistake. In fact, it’s very common. Employment verification services, though, mitigate this possibility.
- I-9 deadlines demand the form be handled in an efficient manner – I-9 forms are multistep processes that must be addressed over several days. The first step is simple enough, and involves filling out the new employee’s personal information. Following this step, the employee must provide identifying and authorizing documentation to their employer. Then the employer must verify this documentation to the best of their ability. This all has to be accomplished within a matter of days, and missing a deadline means trouble should the company be subjected to an audit. Again, business owners have a lot on their plate, so missing a deadline is a common issue.The first step of I-9 form must be completed on the new employee’s first day of work. The rest of the form, including document verification, must be handled by the employee’s third work day, mandated by ICE. It’s a lot to handle in such a short time.
- I-9 forms must be properly retained for years – From the employee’s first day of work, the employer must retain their I-9 form for at least three years, or for at least one year after the employee is terminated, whichever is longer. It is essential that I-9 forms be properly maintained, either in paper or electronic form. Paper forms are easier to maintain but can easily be lost or damaged. If they are, the employer is no longer in I-9 compliance. Electronic recordkeeping protects the forms from most incidental damage, but companies have to set up their I-9 recordkeeping precisely, meeting stringent accuracy and auditing measures to satisfy investigators.
- Most I–9 form errors are not correctible – This is the real issue. Mistakes will happen, but when they are made on an I-9 form, or when they involve I-9 form retention, those mistakes cannot be corrected. If a business owner forgets to file an I-9 form for an employee, that can be an expensive bit of forgetfulness.And if I-9 forms are lost or destroyed, they cannot be reproduced and filed again. Some employers have made the mistake of trying to backdate their I-9 forms in an attempt to avoid fines, but this can result in criminal penalties.
- I–9 audits can be tough – ICE is doing more frequent I-9 audits, and every single error, every typo, every process mistake is tallied as an individual fine. So 10 mistakes on a single form translates to 10 fines. Multiply this across the company’s entire workforce, and it’s obvious how quickly this can get out of hand. Hundreds, even thousands of violations are possible, and as each violation carries fines up to hundreds or thousands of dollars, businesses stand to lose a great deal if they are not on top of their I-9 forms. And if a company demonstrated excessive negligence, as in not bothering with I-9 forms at all, or if fraudulent forms are found, the business owner may face criminal penalties.
I-9 compliance is something that employers cannot afford to ignore. But with all of the moving parts involved, remaining compliant is not simple. This is where employment verification services come in, as they have the process knowledge and organization needed to guarantee their clients do everything by the book and avoid costly fines.