Was your first thought after reading that headline “What’s an ICE Audit?” If so, you’re not alone and you’ve come to the right place!
ICE stands for Immigration and Customs and Enforcement and it’s the division of the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for auditing the wonderful form I-9 that every employer must complete for each new hire.
The I-9 is a simple form but if you or your managers don’t complete it properly, you could be throwing money away – maybe a lot of it!
One of the largest fines assessed on a single company as a result of an I-9 audit was $605,250 after an audit revealed 800+ violations. Wanna know the scary part of this number? The most common violation that resulted in the highest percentage of that fine was due to the manager failing to sign section 2 of the form (where they verify the employee’s documents).
How many of your I-9s are missing that signature right now?
You may be thinking – “yea, but that was a much bigger company than mine so the fine was way higher than mine would be.” And, you may be right. But, just consider $100-$1100 for each I-9 you do have and I think you’ll find that it’s still not chump change. Plus, the profit is in the pennies!
This article will briefly cover the process of properly completing the I-9, but if you want to know more about how an I-9 audit works, head over the the ICE website.
Let’s review the sections of this form:
Section 1 – Employee Information and Attestation
This is where the employee will enter their personal information, as well as their authorization to work in this country.
- The employer should NOT complete any part of this section! If you do complete it, perhaps at the request of the employee due to a disability or similar need, you MUST also complete the Preparer or Translator Certification section.
- The employer SHOULD review this section to confirm the employee has completed each box appropriately (if you’re using an electronic onboarding system of some sort this is likely handled by that software) and the section is signed and dated by the employee.
Section 2 – Employer Review and Verification
This is where the manager will review the documents provided by the employee and then complete the verification.
- You must physically see these documents! You cannot take the employees word for it or have them show you a picture of their birth certificate that their mom texted them.
- You must reasonably confirm that the document is genuine – if the social security card is pink, it’s probably not genuine.
- You must complete every single box and sign/date.
- The I-9 must be fully executed within 3 business days from the employee’s start date that is documented in this section.
- Note that the signature box for this section starts with: “I attest, UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY…” This form is a big deal and you should take it seriously!
Section 3 – Reverification and Rehires
You probably won’t use this very often; here are the reasons you will complete this section:
- Your new hire has a grant of employment authorization that will expire in the future. An example of this could be a work visa or student visa. If you receive something like this (it will be noted in Section 1 with the expiration date) you MUST follow up with them to get the new receipt with the new expiration date PRIOR to it expiring (set a reminder for 90 days out as a best practice).
- You have an employee who changes their name. (recommended that you NOT update this form or your payroll records until they show you their new social security card with this name – otherwise, you’ll have issues at the end of the year with their W2). This is actually not required, but recommended.
- You have a rehire within 3 years of the date the original I-9 was completed AND their employment authorization has not expired. (having them complete a new I-9 is much faster for most of you)
Some Other Important Rules to Consider
The form has a list of all the acceptable documents on the back of Section 2/3. Here’s what you need to know about that:
- List A establishes both the identity of the employee as well as their authorization to work in this country. Therefore, you only need to list ONE document from that list if they present one to you. In other words, if the employee shows you their passport (a List A document), you do not also have to document their driver’s license (List B document) and/or social security card (List C document).
- List B establishes ONLY the identity of the employee, therefore you need a document from List B AND List C to satisfy the requirements of the I-9.
- List C establishes ONLY the employment authorization of the employee, therefore you need a document from List C AND List B to satisfy the requirements of the I-9.
- Be very careful to confirm that you have either a List A document or BOTH a List B and List C document. A military ID and a driver’s license do NOT satisfy this since neither of them are acceptable under List C – so, you’re missing the List C document in that scenario.
- You may not require any certain document for the I-9 – the employee is allowed to bring any document they want from the list. So, you can’t require a driver’s license and a social security card. That may seem like an easy thing to request, but it could actually get you into a lot of trouble.
- You do not have to make a copy or keep a copy of the documents produced by the employee for this form – in fact, this is not a recommended practice. If you do want to keep them, you must have them on file for every single employee; any missing copies will cause you problems.
You must keep the I-9 on file for every employee for
ONE YEAR after termination
THREE YEARS after hire
whichever is longer.
Be sure you are…
- Using the current version of the form. As of the date of this article, that’s the version that expires 8/31/2019 and was revised 11/14/2016 N.
- Not discriminating against any employee by requiring certain documentation, overly scrutinizing document presented by non-citizens or otherwise treating employees differently in any manner.
So much more to cover, but that should get you through the basics.
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