In today’s political climate where immigration continues to be a hotly debated issue in the United States, employers need to be more vigilant than ever before when it comes to staying I-9 compliant. This important one-page legal document requires a series of actions to be implemented within multiple deadlines set by the government. Multiply those efforts times the number of employees a company has and hiring at least one staff member whose sole job is to oversee I-9 compliance suddenly seems non-negotiable. To help distribute the workload and stay in compliance, many companies are increasingly turning to digital I-9 compliance software.
What is digital I-9 compliance software?
There are many laws and regulations that come into play with employment eligibility. While the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Handbook for Employers M-274 may help, a good I-9 software program can whisk the employer through it while significantly reducing errors and risk.
Typically, these software programs are instrumental in minimizing human errors such as blank form fields, missing signatures, and overlooked deadlines, all of which can result in costly penalties. This affords employers a certain peace of mind that they are being thorough and proactive in keeping the company Form I-9 compliant.
What features does digital I-9 compliance software offer?
The main purpose of digital I-9 compliance software is to assist employers in achieving compliance with the law, thus minimizing risk. These user friendly and intuitive programs generally oversee Form I-9 processes, minimize errors, and provide timely reminders for action items needed to keep a company compliant.
- Prepares Employees: Software programs should offer a thorough checklist for employees to review ahead of time so they will know exactly what is required of them for completion of the Form I-9. In addition to aiding employees, these checklists also help employers remember which items still need to be completed in order to stay compliant.
- Assists with On-Boarding: The software typically reminds and notifies employers to complete each of the three sections of the I-9 form in the proper timeframe to stay compliant. In addition to these compliance reminders, these programs also help minimize human error by alerting employers to blank spaces, incomplete fields, or missing signatures on the Form I-9.
- Tracks Expiring Documents: Digital I-9 compliance software is instrumental in reminding companies to update Form I-9 documents before they expire and become a compliancy issue.
- Secures Document Archiving: Software programs should also remind employers which documents must be retained, and which do not. The system should also allow companies to digitize documents to attach electronically which provides a convenient paperless solution.
- Centralizes Reporting: Reporting should be standard with any digital I-9 compliancy software. This feature helps provide documents in an efficient manner which should satisfy requirements for government audits.
- E-Verify: This optional interface feature was created to give employers an extra resource to verify eligibility of employment for its employees. This government-run employment verification system is already required in some states. Employers need only input an employee’s basic information, such as the employee’s name, social security number and birthdate for the system to compare it with information already in the federal database. A good digital I-9 compliance software program should work in tandem with E-Verify by helping to auto-populate the system to minimize errors, take in the E-Verify notifications and alerts, and notify employers about any open cases in the system.
- Assists with an Audit: Software companies should be able to provide auditors with key information about the operation of their software and appropriate audit trails. In addition, the company should be willing to assist in doing mass prints of I-9 records and attachments as needed for audits.
All of these digital I-9 compliancy software features combined should provide employers with much needed peace of mind about their ability to stay Form I-9 compliant and avoid potentially devastating penalties.
Making the Move to Digital I-9 Compliance Software
If your company is considering making the move to digital I-9 compliance software, there are several key things to take into consideration.
Make sure the software company and program you choose is reputable. This can translate to favorable reviews from other companies as well as the software company’s proven track record of success in keeping businesses I-9 compliant.
Verify that the software program the company uses is written by knowledgeable professionals who have an intimate understanding of I-9 compliancy. Programs that go the extra mile may include a digital library of information about resolving I-9 issues. Also ensure that the software can be used by your company at multiple hiring locations with multi-level user access.
The software company is providing you a service but should allow your business some ownership of the process. Software providers should allow the option for enterprise integration so a company’s IT department can secure and host the software internally. However, they should still be readily available to answer any support questions that arise.
Customer service is an absolute must when it comes to choosing your digital I-9 compliance software partner. Customer support should be offered in a variety of methods, help with troubleshooting, and guarantee a timely response.
Why I-9 Compliance is Important
It’s the law. Plain and simple. It has been the law since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The act requires employers to have all employees complete the Form I-9, collect required documentation for each, and then authenticate the process.
While being I-9 compliant may not keep a company from being subject to government audits, it can help keep the company compliant. This alleviates concerns regarding penalties assigned per employee for each Form I-9 that is not compliant.
When found to be out of compliance for multiple I-9 forms, a company is at risk of receiving some hefty penalty fines from the government. While these fines can be inconvenient and expensive, it can go beyond that. Companies found to be in gross negligence of the I-9 compliance process may be assigned so many fines that their profit margin and bottom line are ultimately damaged.
In addition to being in violation of the law and receiving fines for not being I-9 compliant, companies are also at risk of losing some of their workforce. Individuals found to be ineligible to work in the United States during an audit could possibly be subject to deportation.
In recent years the trend of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations is estimated to have quadrupled. Legally, the Department of Justice (Immigrant and Employee Rights Section), the Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security (which includes ICE) are all able to inspect a company’s I-9 forms.
For all these reasons and more, Form I-9 compliance is not just important, it is necessary.