Before a new hire can begin working for an employer, both must complete an I-9 Form. An I-9 Form is used for employment eligibility verification. The purpose is to verify the employee’s identification and authorization to work in the United States. Completion of the I-9 Form is required by federal law and failure to properly do so can have serious consequences.
Audits are systematic examinations of documents to determine accuracy and completeness. Auditing your I-9 records is a good way to ensure you are compliant with requirements and help prevent costly fines. For more information on the I-9 Form see What Employers Need To Know About I-9 Compliance.
Who should perform an audit
All employers should perform I-9 audits. Whether you have one employee or 500, federal regulation require these documents be complete and on file.
Why audits are important
If done in an organized way, audits are an efficient and easy way to prevent legal violations that could potentially cost the company thousands of dollars.
How to perform an efficient audit
First, employers should check that they have an I-9 Form on file for every current employee. It is best to separate the forms into two files: one for current employees and the other for terminated employees. Current employee forms should be prioritized, but a list of anyone missing a form should be compiled.
Next, any employees on the list should be contacted and notified of the need to complete the form. Copies of any communications with employees on this matter should be kept in the audit file.
Third, when the list of employees with missing forms has been cleared, the employer can begin checking the forms for completeness and accuracy. To do this the employer must check the information provided in each section of the I-9 Form. Again, the forms should be separated into two files: those completed properly and those with errors. Keep a log of all forms with errors to keep in the audit file. This log shows an employer’s good faith effort to remedy errors and comply with the law.
Fourth, actually correct the errors. It is not enough to simply note the existence of errors. The employer must do everything possible and in a timely manner to fix any mistakes or omissions. If information is missing or written incorrectly, the employee can likely fix the same document and initial beside the changes. However, if signatures are missing or the I-9 is so flawed it no longer makes sense a new form should be completed. Again, all additions and modifications should be kept in a log and added to the audit file.
Fifth, return to the file of terminated employee I-9 forms. Current employees take priority, but after their completion the files of employees no longer on the job should be checked for compliance. Employers are required to retain I-9s for certain lengths of time post-employment. This step is done in the same manner as the audit on current employees.
Finally, organize the audit file. It is critical to keep a log during the entire auditing process. Form I-9 is an official government document so any changes to these files must be tracked.
Hire a lawyer
Although auditing your records is a good way to check your compliance, the I-9 involves a complex set of regulations that can easily get confusing. Hiring an experienced attorney such as Ray Scheetz can help to simplify things. His knowledge and experience working with immigration law provides a vital resource in ensuring your employment practices are following federal regulations.