As politicos on Capitol Hill battle it out over US immigration policy, employers and human resources service providers nationwide must take heed as to just how the increasingly contentious issue may affect them. That’s because I-9 audits, designed to crack down on ineligible workers, are expected to soar in number this year – more than triple the number of those performed last year. It’s a potential financial hit for any company employing ineligible workers, whether knowingly or not.
In an October address to the Heritage Foundation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan, stated that the agency already has “increased the number of inspections and worksite operations,” and that employers would “see that significantly increase this next fiscal year.” In fact, Holman told the crowd, plans call for increasing time spent on worksite enforcement “by four to five times” in 2018.
Not only will the sheer number of I-9 audits increase, but fines levied also are expected to soar. Though the number of inspections rose by less than 100 from 1,279 in 2016 to 1,360 last year, fines for violations identified in those audits skyrocketed from $2 million to $97.6 million. Experts project ICE will conduct more than 6,100 audits in 2018.
Established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), Federal Form I-9 requirements are aimed at verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired in the United States. All employers nationwide must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual hired, both citizens and non-citizens, within three business days of an employee’s first day of employment. Prospective employees must adequately attest to their employment authorization and provide acceptable related documents. Employers are expected to ensure that all documentation is genuine and to retain and make it available for inspection by authorized government officers at any time.
In determining penalties for noncompliance with I-9 requirements, ICE focuses primarily on employers’ intent; whether violations were willful or unintended; the percentage of employees found to be in violation; and whether the employer is a known repeat offender. An employer who unknowingly makes an error or who experiences a technical error in completing the Form I-9, or who fails to obtain appropriate documentation from new employees may be fined between $220 and $1,862 for each violation. Penalties for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ workers who are in violation can be far higher – between $548 and $21,916 per violation.
The majority of I-9 violations are unintended and can be avoided with effective employee onboarding software that automates the I-9 process. Apex HCM’s products and services will help assure businesses of all sizes that they’re in full compliance with I-9 and other Federal and state employment requirements. Call 877-750-2739 or request a demo of any Apex HCM offering.