The Trump Administration is increasing worksite audits and raids to crack down on I-9 violations . This post discusses how to remain in compliance with employment regulations and steps that can be taken to ensure all parties are prepared for I-9 audits, immigration raids, and immigration-related site visits.
The Trump administration is further increasing worksite audits and raids this summer, putting employers on notice that all workers must have proper work authorization documentation and foreign national employees must have applicable work visas, green cards, or other work permits. Employers in industries with a larger portion of foreign national workers such as hospitality, food service, high tech, and agriculture may be subject to additional worksite visits and scrutiny. All employers, whether they hire foreign workers or not, may be targets of I-9 audits, and employers of workers with visas may be subject to immigration-related site visits, which we have discussed previously here.
According to the Associated Press, there were 2,282 employer audits opened between October 1 and May 4, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS) said early this month, nearly a 60 percent increase over the period between October 2016 and September 2017. Many were launched following the January 2018 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audits and employee interviews at about 100 7-Eleven franchises across the country. 594 employers were arrested on criminal immigration charges from October 1 to May 4, up from 139 during the previous fiscal year, and 610 civil immigration charges during the same period, compared to 172 in the preceding 12-months. Derek Benner, head of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations unit, said that another nationwide wave of audits planned this summer would push the total "well over" 5,000 by September 30.
Since 1986 all employers in the United States must fill out an I-9 form for every new hire to document their employment authorization in the United States, regardless of whether the prospective employee is a foreign national or a U.S. citizen. A failure to properly comply with I-9 requirements can result in civil fines, criminal charges, debarment from government contracts, court ordered back pay, and other criminal and civil penalties. It is crucial that employers understand the I-9 documentation requirements and the risks and steps they can take to minimize their liability.
When hiring a new worker all employers must ensure an I-9 form is completed in a timely fashion. Ignorance of this requirement is no excuse and a pattern of non-compliance may result in criminal charges. Use the latest I-9 form found on the USCIS website. The I-9 should be completed only after the employee has accepted the job offer. Section 1 should be completed by the employee on or before day 1 of employment. Section 2 should be completed by the employer no later than day 3 of employment. Documents demonstrating the employee’s identity and work authorization must be presented to fill out Section 2. If appropriate documents are not received by day 3 the employer must terminate the employee until acceptable documents are produced. Detailed instructions can be found in the I-9 Handbook for Employers on the USCIS website.
Additional steps can be taken to ensure I-9 compliance, such as self-auditing of I-9 forms and proactively making corrections before an audit takes place. Good faith attempts to comply can reduce fines and penalties considerably. Auditing I-9 forms and other immigration related documents, such as employee visa and work permit applications and documentation, is particularly important when a company is considering a merger or acquisition. In today’s environment of heightened immigration enforcement companies should work with employment and immigration counsel to take steps to ensure they are prepared for I-9 audits, immigration raids, and immigration-related site visits to protect themselves and their foreign national employees.
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