On August 7, 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted a raid of seven Mississippi food processing plants, arresting 680 employees suspected of working without proper documentation. Since the Trump administration came into office, ICE has significantly stepped up worksite enforcement by ramping up the number of I-9 audits. In Fiscal Year 2018, HSI conducted 5,981 I-9 inspections, compared to 1,360 in Fiscal Year 2017.
Increase in Form I-9 Penalties – How Small Mistakes Can Cost You Big Money
A recent Department of Justice (DOJ) ruling, issued April 5, 2019, increased the fines for I-9 violations for those occurring after November 2, 2015. The new fine structure is effective for penalties assessed after April 5, 2019 whose associated violations occurred after November 2, 2015. Penalties for substantive and uncorrected I-9 violations now range from $230 to $2,292 per violation, and penalties for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ an unauthorized worker range from $573 to $22,927 per violation. Employers should note that most I-9 violations may be considered continuing violations until they are corrected.
Seemingly trivial errors on the I-9 form can often result in hefty fines and penalties. A fine can be assessed for certain errors on the I-9 form according to HSI guidelines.
Be sure to avoid these five common errors:
- Failing to complete Section 1 of Form I-9 on the first day: While employers have three days to complete Section 2, Section 1 must be completed no later than the employee’s first day of employment.
- Tracking only the right expiration dates: The employer may have to re-verify employment authorization documents on or before the expiration date listed on the I-9 form; however, some documents should not be re-verified.
- Reviewing photocopies rather than original documents: The employee must always present original documents; photocopies of documents should not be accepted for examination and verification.
- Correcting errors on Form I-9: Be sure not to conceal any changes made on Form I-9 and follow an appropriate correction method.
- Using an outdated version of Form I-9: Many I-9 versions have been issued since its first introduction, but employers should only use the current version when completing Form I-9. To determine whether the correct version of Form I-9 is being used, refer to the revision date printed on the bottom left corner of the form, not the expiration date printed at the top of the form.