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Whether it’s one of the 150 possible Form I-9 mistakes made during the rush of new employee onboarding, or forgetting about the other administrative requirements that come with the form, internal audits are an important process to protect your organization from costly fines.
Internal I-9 audits are only becoming increasingly important as time moves forward. In late 2016 the Department of Justice increased fines for Form I-9 errors found during Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audits. In some cases, they effectively doubled the fines for errors. Coupled with these fine increases, a recent executive order issued by President Trump called for an increase in force of 10,000 new ICE officers. With the staff increase and hardline immigration policy, it is reasonable to assume that the risk of audit will continue to grow over the next four years.
Knowing the increased likelihood of an I-9 audit and severity of fines, it may be time to consider an internal audit procedure if your organization doesn’t already have one.
Your internal I-9 audit is meant to help you review, evaluate, and improve your hiring procedures. Before you dive into an audit, it is imperative that you outline a procedure. This ensures that you maintain a consistent process that is conducted in a non-discriminatory manner. It is illegal to discriminate based on race or national origin. Mishandling an audit can lead to the appearance of discrimination.
Designate an “I-9 Officer” or Company Representative, responsible for knowing and applying Form I-9 rules. It is critical that the individual conducting the audit is familiar with the M-274 Handbook, the Form I-9 requirements, the risks and pitfalls, the terminology, and the internal corporate process and policy of storing Form I-9 records. The authorized I-9 Officer should achieve the following:
- Become well-versed on the correct completion of the Form I-9
- Develop and enforce a compliant program
- Create and implement internal training procedures
- Conduct regular internal audits
- Have a plan of action in the event of an ICE audit
Make sure the selection of Forms I-9 for an internal audit is not based on the employee’s race or national origin. Either audit all forms, or audit a truly random sample of forms. An organization may not selectively choose which forms to audit.
Maintaining a consistent, annual audit procedure provides a defense against allegations of targeted internal Form I-9 auditing. Internal audit processes should mimic government compliance audit processes. This not only verifies Forms I-9 on file, but it also trains the Human Resources Department to prepare for actual government compliance audits.
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The Companion Guide
The topic of The Form I-9 is a tricky labyrinth to navigate these days. Let us help with the directions.
Either keep copies of all I-9 verification documents, or none of them. If your records are not complete, then you must either obtain the missing documents, or dispose of all collected verification documents.
An internal audit should include an in-depth review of all of an organization’s Forms I-9. Considering the limited resources and time of an organization, a comprehensive review of all I-9 records may not be feasible. In this case, organizations are encouraged to review a significant and fair sample of Forms I-9 to determine where most errors/omissions occur, how to correct these, and how to implement better training and policies to ensure proper completion and compliance moving forward.
See our recent post on common I-9 mistakes.
Dealing with Form I-9 errors
If you happen to spot an error during your internal audit, there are a few things to keep in mind when making corrections.
First and foremost, do not white out or otherwise forge information in an I-9. This is considered fraud in auditor’s eyes. You will not be able to correct information like signature dates or first day of employment. Instead, it is better to attach a note to the document explaining the reasoning for the incorrect dates – being sure to sign and date the note.
If there are easily correctable mistakes on the document such as incorrect names, or document numbers, you may do so on the form. Cross out the information with a contrasting ink color, write the correct information next to it, then initial and date the correction.
If there are a lot of errors or if making the corrections would be difficult to keep on the page, you may complete a new form I-9 with the corrected information. Make sure to attach the old form with the new one and a note explaining the reason for the new form. Sign and date the note.
The Companion Guide to Employment Eligibility Verification
It may seem like a daunting task to begin an internal auditing program for those that do not currently have one. While it may be a lot of work, it is a much better practice than burying your head in the sand and hoping you never get an audit request. Once this becomes an established yearly habit, you will appreciate the peace of mind.
For more information on the specific step-by-step instructions to follow with your internal audit, download our eBook.