I-9 Audits on the Rise


If you have not yet been audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for I-9 compliance, consider yourself fortunate! There may be an I-9 audit in your future. Criminal investigations, business audits and arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents and auditors surged in fiscal year 2018 compared to the previous year. This follows a commitment made by the agency in late 2017 to step up its worksite enforcement efforts across the county. Audit of employers’ I-9 records are the primary compliance tool.

In 2018, HSI opened 6,848 worksite investigations compared to 1,691 in 2017; initiated 5,981 I-9 audits compared to 1,360; and made 779 criminal and 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests compared to 139 and 172, respectively; all of these categories surged by 300 to 750 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Companies and their managers have been punished with fines and jail sentences as a result of these audits–and, unfortunately, the audits are only expected to increase.

To make sure no compliance issues are discovered if ICE comes knocking at your door, self-audit guidelines can be found here. Companies wanting extra assurance that their I-9 protocols pass the test can apply for ICE’s Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program at ice.gov/image.

To qualify, employers must:

• Complete a self-assessment questionnaire/application
• Enroll in E-Verify within 60 days
• Create a written hiring and verification policy that includes yearly self-audits
• Sign a partnership agreement with ICE, and
• Agree to voluntary I-9 inspection

It’s not surprising that many businesses are reluctant to invite the federal government to review their employee records, and that they find the self-guidelines complicated and time-consuming. Yet, these same businesses want to comply with federal law with respect to employee records, and hire workers eligible to work in the United States.

There is good news! We can help you make sure your employee records are in compliance. If you want to learn more, please contact Jack Adams at 847.838.8245.