Immigration-related fines for businesses increased in August of 2016, but the total number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audits was declining prior to Donald Trump taking office. The Trump administration has focused heavily on immigration enforcement and is expected to continue doing so. Businesses should expect and be prepared for ICE audits. The following information can help business owners avoid fines and being caught off guard.
Businesses should review all hiring and other human resources policies to ensure written guidelines are up-to-date and being followed by all personnel. Doing so can catch any discrepancies and oversights that could potentially result in unnecessary disruptions to business and thousands of dollars in fines. An immigration attorney can advise on any possible changes to immigration policies that may affect businesses that hire foreign-born workers.
I-9 Employment Eligibility Forms
The I-9 Employment Eligibility forms are used to verify every employee is legally qualified to work in the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides webinars and other training tools for human resources personnel to help ensure necessary forms are completed properly and filed correctly. There are some complex nuances regarding how any errors on the forms must be corrected and how to establish a clear audit trail if errors were made by the employer or the employee when filling out the forms.
If an ICE audit occurs
Businesses must not attempt to correct any errors on I-9 documents after they have received a Notice of Inspection from ICE. Agents typically arrive at businesses without providing any Notice of Inspection. Agents will review documents and ask questions about I-9 policies. Companies are not required to respond to all ICE requests immediately.
After the ICE audit is completed, ICE should provide the business with a written notification of the results. This notice will highlight any I-9 form issues or those that appear suspicious. ICE may also state the agency intends to level fines and conduct further investigations or that the business was found to be fully compliant. If ICE does give an intent to fine notification, businesses have 30 days to either negotiate a settlement or request to have a hearing. An immigration lawyer can advise businesses on the best course of action based on their situation and a review of the ICE audit.