When it comes to Form I-9 compliance, a multi-tiered approach is best because depending on one resource alone can leave employers exposed to expensive mistakes that could have been avoided. This is just one of the reasons why you shouldn’t depend solely on E-Verify. Ideally, employers should utilize digital I-9 compliance software as well as the E-Verify program for optimal compliance coverage that can provide added peace of mind.
Filling Out the Form I-9
The Form I-9 is the first order of business for employers and new employees. This documentation is required to verify an employee’s identity and employment eligibility in the U.S. There are three main sections to the Form I-9:
- Section 1. This first section of the form deals primarily with employee information. An employee is required to complete this section by their first day of employment. Employers must ensure it is completed correctly.
- Section 2. This second section deals with identity verification and employer review and must be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day of work. Employees are required to provide approved Form I-9 documents to an employer. The employer then must examine and when appropriate vouch for their apparent authenticity.
- Section 3. This last section is dedicated to rehires and reverifications. If an employee’s work authorization expires, their name legally changes, or they have been rehired within three years of the date on the original Form I-9, this section must be completed.
While the Form I-9 is universally mandatory for employers in the United States, some helpful resources such as digital I-9 compliance software and E-Verify are not.
E-Verify, the Program
E-Verify is a federal program that enables employers to ensure their employees are eligible to work via matching a Form I-9 to an individual’s files on record with the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. In many cases the program also offers a photo identification for identity comparison.
An employer that has enrolled in the E-Verify program can open a case to verify an employee’s work eligibility. After submission, employees may hear back in under twenty-four hours while other more complex cases may take extended amounts of time. E-Verify will let an employer know about a case’s final results or issues with a case as soon as possible.
While E-Verify is primarily voluntary, enrollment can be required for some employers if:
- They have federal contracts or subcontracts including the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)
- They are geographically located in a state mandating enrollment in E-Verify
- They are mandated to do so via a legal ruling
The E-Verify program is largely considered to be an asset when used in conjunction with digital I-9 compliance software, but it may not be wise to depend on it alone.
Why You Shouldn’t Depend Solely on E-Verify
In the quest to be Form I-9 compliant, it can be tempting to rely entirely on E-Verify to alert users to transposed numbers and potential eligibility issues. However, using E-Verify alone without the assistance of digital Form I-9 software can leave users susceptible to costly missteps.
Some of the features offered by digital I-9 compliance software that offer an extra layer of protection for the employer and that are not used by the E-Verify program alone are:
- Validation of input. When an employer fills out a Form I-9, digital software is designed to assist with catching common human errors that can occur when inputting information. Catching these mistakes before the form is submitted may result in the reduction or avoidance of penalties that can be issued for submitting an incomplete form.
- Minimization of input. An employee that fills out a hardcopy of a Form I-9 by hand requires an employer to manually type in that information into E-Verify with an eye for detail. By using digital software, the data put into a digital Form I-9 can automatically populate E-Verify fields to cut down on input errors that result from retyping information over and over.
- Alerts of duplicated forms before submission. Digital software is designed to recognize duplicate information in Form I-9s and if found usually sends an alert to an employer before the form is officially submitted. This can essentially cut down on accidental duplicates or intentional fraud.
- Practice encouraged. When working with digital software, there is typically a component that lets an employer practice entering information first, rather than beginning with a real employee. This can help an employer feel more confident about the process when beginning to enter employee information in earnest.
- Paperless digital trail. The digital I-9 compliance software permits employers to securely and digitally store forms that are also searchable and retrievable.
- Tracking capabilities. When completing Form I-9s by hand, it can be overwhelming for employers to try to keep up with tracking expired work authorizations, as well as when forms should be purged. Digital compliance software includes a feature that alerts employers of these potential problems before they become a compliance issue.
Potential Consequences for Not Being Form I-9 Compliant
Being I-9 compliant is not just a good rule of thumb, it is the law via the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Companies that are found in an audit not to be in compliance can be issued criminal and civil violations.
Criminal violations tend to be the more serious of the two. This type of offense generally involves illegal patterns of recruiting, hiring, or referring unauthorized aliens for a fee. Each instance of a criminal violation can be assigned a penalty, which can add up quickly for companies.
Civil violations pertain more to employment verification requirements, knowingly hiring or continuing to employ an unauthorized individual for employment, document abuse, document fraud, and failed notification of non-confirmation regarding an employee’s employment eligibility.
It is worth noting that the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations regarding I-9 compliance have quadrupled in recent years, with many estimating the trend will continue for the foreseeable future. With investigations on the rise, companies simply cannot afford to be found out of compliance with federal law. If you have questions about Form I-9 protocol, E-Verify, or compliance, please reach out to Lookout Services today.