I-9 Compliance and IRCA

What Are Your Business Obligations?

Most businesses are well aware of the need to verify their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.  It is pretty well ingrained into our collective knowledge that when hiring employees it is necessary to complete the I-9 form.  All too often, however, employers are failing to properly maintain a proper I-9 procedure and are finding themselves paying for their failure.

What are the obligations of a business and what are the consequences of failing to meet those obligations?  Read on and you might just be surprised about how complex the law can become and how important it is to comply with the law.

What is IRCA?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”) of 1986 requires employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all newly hired U.S. employees.  Businesses are often well aware of this requirement and attempt to comply with IRCA by having each new employee complete an I-9 form.  In fact, the IRCA requires the use of Form I-9 in conducting work eligibility verification.

How Difficult is It To Maintain I-9 Compliance?

Most employers approach the I-9 with the feeling that it is a simple form that shouldn’t be worried about except for the minute or two it takes to complete.  I-9, however, is deceptively complex and maintaining an adequate I-9 compliance program is especially important .  Although this is not the right place to fully explain a company’s obligations, if you are a business owner are you able to answer the following questions?

How long does an employer have to complete the I-9 after a person is hired?  What forms are needed to complete the I-9?  Does a person need a social security card to complete the I-9?  What happens if a person presents a fraudulent document?  What happens if the company doesn’t realize the document is fraudulent?  How long must a company maintain an I-9 form?  Is it necessary to maintain records of the documents?  How often must a company reexamine an employee’s eligibility?

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Why Does I-9 Compliance Matter?

Perhaps in the past, a company could comfortably disregard its I-9 obligations without fear of any repercussions.  Those days, however, are past.  The government is moving into a much more rigid culture of compliance where it is actively seeking out companies that may be disregarding its I-9 obligations.  In fact, the government recently announced it would examine 1000 more U.S. employers.  The number of investigations is only expected to increase.

Additionally, if the government catches a company, it is increasing imposing fines.  A company could face a fine of up to $11,000 per EACH ineligible employee, a fine of up to $11,000 per EACH failure to maintain appropriate documentation.  Managers and Business owners may also be criminally liable for I-9 violations.  A business owner may be jailed for up to six months for EACH unauthorized employee and can face up to five years in jail if they make false statements concerning the I-9 documentation.

What Can Be Done?

If you are a business owner, you probably already have an I-9 program that is a work in progress.  However, if you want to ensure that your program is in complete compliance and will not expose you to any liabilities – please contact an I-9 compliance attorney.  Taking steps willy-nilly without consulting a competent attorney may cause more pain than gain.