It’s a normal Monday morning until you notice a letter on your desk with the U.S.C.I.S. logo on it. As you begin reading… “Section 274A of the Immigration and Naturalization Act… requires employers to hire only United States citizens or aliens authorized to work in the United States… ” it occurs to you that your business is the subject of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) inspection. Think it won’t happen to you? Over the past year, more than 5,000 businesses have received such a “Notice of Inspection” letter from U.S.C.I.S. It’s fair to say, many of them wished they had taken these 3 actions.
How can my business be better prepared for an I.C.E. inspection?
As part of an inspection, I.C.E. auditors will typically request your company’s I-9 records, along with significant amounts of supporting data, like payroll records, tax statements and rosters of current and terminated employees. Federal notice requirements give you 72 hours to prepare the information requested, after which the I.C.E auditor will arrive with a Special Agent and take all of your data with them. Employers are advised to take these three actions in order to be best prepared and minimize risk and penalties.
Action 1 – Understand that YOU can be next in line for inspection
According to an I.C.E. press release dated July 24, 2018, ICE served 2,540 notices in Q1 2018 and another 2,738 in Q2 of 2018. A popular bakery was among the 77 San Francisco Bay Area businesses receiving notice in Q1 with crushing effects on the business and its employees. These inspections can be terrifying for staff and heartbreaking for employers. The press release further states that “In FY17, businesses were ordered to pay $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines and restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines.” Employers should expect those numbers to increase sharply along with the dramatic increase in the number of inspections in 2018.
Action 2 – Self Audit
The purpose of an I-9 Self-Audit is similar to that of an official USCIS audit – to ensure the business is in compliance with laws governing eligibility to work in the United States. During a self-audit, you will methodically go through every record, identifying any missing documents, properly correcting errors and listing action steps to bring the business into compliance. There is a specific methodology to follow, but once understood, a self-audit is an excellent way to determine your current level of compliance. Conducting a self-audit can also show good faith intention to comply (in case of inspection), reduce fines associated with technical and substantive errors, and help you better understand the entire eligibility process.
Action 3 – Train your staff on I-9 compliance
The mechanism for compliance, in most cases, is the I-9 Form, which can be strengthened by using the E-Verify service. Many businesses pay scant attention to the I-9 process, mostly because they are focused on hiring someone to fill a need in their organization and view the “paperwork” as just a process of “checking boxes.” Completing the I-9 Form appears to be a relatively simple matter, but without proper training and focus, the eligibility process can be extremely risky. Inspection can have devastating effects on the people in your organization, and result in costly fines and penalties.
Employment Eligibility Training materials are available online from ICE and USCIS, and in-person training on the eligibility and self-audit processes is available from qualified professionals in the Human Resources field. Ensuring that your team is properly trained is the best way to protect your business from the risk associated with an I.C.E. inspection.
The HR Manager consultants are available to help you prepare for an inspection by providing training to your staff or assisting with a self-audit. Should you need any assistance with these or any other HR initiatives, please feel free to reach out.