Work Authorization Compliance
A Simple Guide to Form I9 Compliance in the workplace
All employers in the U.S. are required to verify if the people they hire are authorized to work. This is called I9 compliance. If you are an employer that needs to hire a new employee, you are required by law to ask employees for identifications that prove that they are authorized to work. All U.S. citizens are authorized to work in the U.S. and have a social security number. However, foreign nationals need to obtain authorization to work and a social security number in order to be employed.
Penalties can be imposed for knowingly hiring unauthorized employees or for committing paperwork violations even if the employees are authorized to work. Fines for knowingly hiring unauthorized employees can be between $573 to $22,972 per employee, depending on the history of violations.
Paperwork violations can also result in significant fines. I9 forms with substantive errors after an audit can receive a fine from $230 to $2,292 per incorrect form.
The employer must be familiar with the different immigration work authorization documents. For example, people in the United States with a tourist visa or student visa are not authorized to work and do not have a social security number. However, foreign nationals that are married to a U.S. citizen and have applied for a green card are usually provided with work authorization and a social security card. This authorization is temporary until their green card to be approved. This work authorization is temporary and has an expiration date. The applicant must then renew the work authorization until the green card is approved. The employer must keep track of the date of the expiration of the work authorization and request the employee to bring updated documentation of their authorization to work.
Legal permanent residents of the U.S. have green cards. The green card authorizes cardholders to work. A U.S. Permanent Resident card (commonly known as green card) is an adequate I9 compliance document.
Employers need to be aware of the laws that surround hiring employees and what type of documentation is required to keep in the employee file in case of a federal government audit or investigation. The employer must ask the new employees to fill out and sign Form I9. Additionally, to make copies of the original documents that support the authorization to work in the U.S. This form is part of the permanent employee file and must be kept by the employer for three years after the conclusion of the employment. The identifications provided by the employee that prove that the employee is authorized to work are also part of the employee file.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are constantly conducting investigations and audits of businesses looking for employee compliance violations. As an employer, you must comply with the immigration laws and regulations in order to protect your business from civil and criminal penalties.
- Pre-audit of Form I9 compliance advice
- Responses to Form I9 compliance inspectors like Immigration Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security
- Defending employers when they receive notices of intent to fine, raids, and criminal enforcement actions from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- Guiding employers on the immigration liabilities associated with Form I9 in mergers and acquisitions and how to mitigate and minimize any potential liabilities
- Training to managers and human resource representatives on how to identify invalid documentation provided by the employee.
The I9 compliance requirement for employers is enforced more often than ever before due to new government policy changes. Not only must employers comply with immigration laws, but they must also abide by anti-discrimination laws that can make them open to civil lawsuits. Employers must not discriminate against individuals on the basis of national origin, citizenship, or immigration status.
If a business is audited and compliance errors are found, the penalties for mistakes in the employee files are very costly. Business owners must protect their business from expensive penalties and fines.
Employers that do not comply with the federal law are subject to:
- Civil fines and criminal penalties
- Disbarment from government contracts
- A court order requiring the payment of back pay to the individuals discriminated against
- A court requiring the employer to hire the individual discriminated against
An audit or investigation to a business site can be triggered by a number of reasons, including random samples, reporting by unhappy employees, or ex-employees. There are also certain types of businesses that are susceptible to audits because of the nature of the business, such as food production business, these are especially susceptible to audits and “silent raids” by ICE.
The inspection or audit process takes various steps and is represented by the chart below:
Terra Immigration Can Help
Our experienced immigration attorneys will work with you on the proper completion, record keeping, and corrections on Form I9 for every employee at your business place.
- We put in place the best practices of compliance so you can hire, monitor, retain, and discard your employee’s records with peace of mind.
- We offer exceptional and professional service at your place of business.
Our training will provide you with answers to the following questions:
- What is the Form I9 requirement?
- Do independent contractors need to complete Form I9?
- When are the employees not required to complete a new Form I9?
- Are my foreign-national employees authorized to work in the USA?
- What do I do when the employee’s employment authorization expires?
- How can I protect my employee’s privacy?
- How do I respond to inspectors?
Don’t let mistakes happen in your business. Our team of lawyers can protect you and your business from civil and criminal liabilities. Contact us to talk to an immigration attorney.