As of Jan. 22, 2017, all employers should now be using the new version of the Form I-9, released in November of last year by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. Correctly completing the document, used by employers across the nation to verify the identity and employment authorization of all new hires in the U.S., has always been an important federal requirement - but perhaps even more so now.
Trump administration cracking down on immigration
Completing, securely storing, and updating these documents can be time-consuming and tedious. Although these enhancements were intended to help make it easier for employers to correctly fill out the forms, the risk of error is still very much present. Taking careful measures to ensure compliance should be a priority for organizations, especially as I-9 audits and penalties for noncompliance continue to increase, and as the Trump administration makes immigration a primary focus of its’ first 100 days.
As News Day explained, last year the government established higher fines for employers who violated Form I-9 requirements, increasing the range of fines from $110 to $1,110 to $216 to $2,156 per employee. Even with these changes, though, employers are still making paperwork errors on their forms.
Furthermore, already, a handful of President Donald Trump's executive orders have dealt with immigration-related issues, such as the Border Security and Immigration Enforcement, which deals mostly with the plans to build a wall along the Mexican border. Of particular concern is the Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States order.
This executive order focuses on interior enforcement and the possible reversal of enforcement priorities established under the Obama administration. The order emphasizes the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have:
- Been convicted of or charged with a criminal offense
- Committed act that constitutes as a chargeable offense
- Misrepresented themselves to government
- Abused a welfare program
This EO allows the Department of Homeland Security to hire 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and enables state and local law enforcement bodies to execute immigrant-related functions. Additionally, the order aims at cutting off federal grants to "sanctuary cities" that do not adhere to the immigration enforcement policies.
Ensuring compliance and avoiding costly errors
Under the new administration, it is becoming increasingly clear that employers can expect more frequent and thorough audits, as well as larger penalties for committed offenses. Therefore, to avoid penalties associated with Form I-9 violations, it is critical for employers to:
- Ensure they understand all changes to the new form, as well as requirements
- Conduct internal audits on existing I-9 files and ensure they are corrected in a compliant manner
- Implement I-9 training and consistent processes
- Complete Section 1 of the I-9 forms within the first day of employment, and Section 2 by the third day
- Create an alert system that notifies employers three months in advance when documents are about to expire and it's time to reverify employees
Web-based Form I-9 and E-Verify software can often help employers ensure that they are using the correct version of the form, and makes compliance easy by accurately validating data entered into every field of the I-9. The software walks both the employee and the employer through a compliant and consistent process of completing the I-9, turning anyone into an I-9 expert. Schedule a live demonstration today and learn more.