In June, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a strategic plan for work site enforcement through fiscal year 2014. One of the key initiatives of the plan is enforcement of U.S. immigration-related employment laws, in particular pursuing employers who knowingly violate the laws. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun notifying 1,000 businesses nationwide it wants to review their I-9 forms and other documents to make sure they are hiring only people authorized to work in the United States. The Form I-9 is used by employers to verify an employee’s identity and legal status. Fines for I-9 violations range from $110 to $1,100 for one single, minor, or technical violation. Incorrect I-9 forms can be used as evidence of knowingly hiring an illegal alien that can result in a fine of up to $3,200 per violation.

Following steps can be taken in order to take your organization one more step toward being a complaint organization and ready for an ICE audit at any point of time.

1) Correct & complete Form I-9: Make sure I-9 forms are completed correctly and accurately for all new hires. Ensure the employee completes section one of the I-9 on the first day of employment and the I-9 s filled within 3 business days from the date of hire. Accept only original documents, not photocopies, and don’t require additional documents from foreign employees.

2) Set out I-9 compliance policy: Establish an I-9 compliance policy in the company and make sure that the policy is followed uniformly across locations irrespective of race or gender. This will safeguard you from discrimination lawsuits, establish good faith efforts and mitigate potential penalties.

3) Regular I-9 audits: Conduct an in-house audit of I-9 forms and correct mistakes. Cross out incorrect information, add correct information, initial and insert current date if you’re using paper I-9. Also put up processes and procedure to regularly conduct I-9 audits and check whether there are any discrepancies.

4) Monitor & re-verify: Ensure that you re-verify expiring work authorization documents before they expire and do not allow an employee to continue to work after his or her work authorization document expires. Set up system in place to track expiring work authorization dates of employees and those who need to be re-verified. You can set up an efficient process if the employee is notified of the impending expiry date and take necessary action accordingly.

5) Purge obsolete I-9: The ICE rules require employers to destroy I-9 forms either one year after the date of termination, or three years after the date of hire, whichever is greater. Purging outdated I-9 forms can help businesses to free up storage space and also helps to protect the sensitive information of previous employees. If an employer fails to destroy I-9 forms within the outlined time frame, then that employer will be subject to fines.

Make sure that the individuals in your company who complete the I-9 process are properly trained and that you regularly audit I-9 compliance. Create your own culture of compliance and be ready to respond to an ICE audit with confidence.

EMPTrust can help you with your I-9 and E-Verification process. EMPTrust’s software application allows companies to manage I-9 forms and seamlessly integrate with employment eligibility verification (E-Verify) all at one go.

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Any issues regarding compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations should be addressed through your legal department or outside counsel.