5 Steps to Prepare for the Inevitable I-9 Audit

November 16, 2021 by Verified First

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In 2019 alone, $14 million dollars in fines were issued to companies across the country for Form I-9 violations. Out of the millions of Form I-9’s completed on paper each year, 76% have at least one error which could result in a fine up to nearly $2,300 per form in error. As shown in these statistics, many companies don’t have the proper processes or solutions in place for proper Form I-9 completion. An I-9 audit can happen to any business, big or small. Is your company prepared for the inevitable I-9 audit?

We hosted Brian Fancher, Director of HRC Product Management and Compliance at Mitratech, for a webinar on preparing for the inevitable I-9 audit. Brian gave our listeners valuable insight into how companies can best keep from becoming another Form I-9 audit statistic. He shared his comprehensive knowledge from years of experience and identified the 5 steps all companies should take to prepare for an I-9 audit. We’ve compiled Brian’s wisdom in a step-by-step process that will set you up for Form I-9 compliance success. 

Step 1: Communicate Your Chain of Command

If you received a Notice of Inspection (NOI) today - the initial letter from ICE informing your company of an upcoming I-9 audit - would your company know how to respond? 

An NOI must be responded to within 72 hours of receipt. Within that time frame, an individual or team must take responsibility for the communication for the rest of the process. Typically, top office personnel will be identified as the point of contact, but it can vary from business to business. It’s important to remember that no matter the person or group, companies should identify the chain of command for communicating with ICE prior to an inspection so your organization is well prepared and ready to respond.

Mitratech recommends that the highest-level manager at the facility be the spokesperson and communicate with headquarters. Top HR executives, legal counsel, and the individual(s) in charge of the company’s Form I-9 process should be notified as soon as an NOI is received.

Step 2: Identify Your Legal Counsel

As mentioned in Step1, you should inform in-house legal counsel as soon as possible after receiving an NOI. An experienced attorney can inform you of your rights and answer any legal questions in regards to the process. 

If not already represented, Brian suggested that you contact immigration counsel immediately upon receipt of an NOI. Those experienced in Form I-9 audit support will be your best confidant in mitigating the risk of potential fines.

Step 3: Define Your Process for Record Access

During an I-9 audit, ICE will likely ask your business to produce other records than Form I-9’s that will assist the federal agency in corroborating your employees’ information. Typically, these records will include:

  • List of all employees
  • Comprehensive payroll reports
  • Past tax statements
  • Articles of incorporation
  • All business licenses  

Be sure to have this information prepared ahead of time so you will be ready if asked to produce any of the stated documents. By having the documents ready to go in the beginning, you will save valuable time

Step 4: Understand How Your Electronic I-9 Vendor Will Support You 

Form I-9 is no longer just in paper form. You can utilize an electronic Form I-9 system to streamline the process. Verified First has integrated the Tracker I-9/E-Verify platform powered by Mitratech to mitigate compliance risk in the midst of a Form I-9 audit. If you’re considering partnering with a Form I-9 platform such as ours, ask your vendor these following questions: 

  • Will your team have a single point of contact?
  • What is the process of contacting the vendor’s point(s) of contact for immediate attention?
  • What is your team’s process to request the records needed by ICE?
  • What is your turnaround commitment for producing the requested I-9 records?

Brian identified these questions as crucial ways to determine the expertise of a vendor. All Form I-9 vendors should have solid answers and be able to thoroughly explain their process. With our integration, you can expect a commitment to clear communication and a process that prioritizes your questions

Step 5: Scrub & Cleanse Your Records

The final step to prepare for an I-9 audit is to properly cleanse your existing I-9’s. The cleansing process involves purging old I-9’s from employee files that you no longer need. Form I-9s for terminated employees can be purged three years after the employee’s initial date of hire or one year after employment ends. 

Paper Form I-9’s are especially prone to errors. Until a few years ago, the cleansing process took manual labor and excessive amounts of time reviewing old Form I-9’s. Thankfully, by teaming up with a Form I-9 vendor such as Verified First and Mitratech, the cleansing process is now fully automated. The vendor will expose errors in your employees’ Form I-9’s while establishing detailed audit trails to ensure fully compliant electronic forms.

In conclusion:

Having your Form I-9’s audited by ICE is more common than many businesses would like to think. No one expects it to happen to them, but truthfully your business could receive an NOI at any time. Be prepared for the inevitable audit and recognize what you could be doing now to save your company precious time and money through this 5 step process.

Want to get started using Verified First and Mitratech for your I-9 process? Let us know!

About Verified First
Verified First is known for delivering streamlined background screening backed by the best client support, and for developing the easiest, fastest HR system integrations, for free. Our client support team is U.S.-based, answers calls in seconds, resulting in hundreds of positive testimonials and a 96% customer satisfaction. Verified First's patent-pending, award-winning integrations include over 100 applicant tracking systems, and provide clients a turn-key experience.

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