Business Compliance: What Is an I-9 Audit?
It’s not uncommon for businesses to overlook hiring practices when they are in the process of growth.
However, it is important to have a company that complies with all legal obligations. One way that you can ensure this is by knowing what an I-9 audit entails.
This guide will go over everything you need to know about these audits and how your business can comply with them!
So whenever you’re ready to dive deep into the intricacies of business compliance, keep reading.
I9 Audit: The Purpose
An I-9 audit is an inspection of the I-94, I-86, or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). It is conducted when a company has been accused of not following the proper hiring practices.
The purpose behind this audit is to verify that employees are authorized to work in the United States. This document verifies employment authorization and identity for people who have already received their green card or citizenship.
The law requires all employers in America to use E-Verify if they do not collect employee documentation at the time of hire.
However, it’s important to note that many companies are using it now, only large businesses with 500+ employees need to worry about audits.
An employer will be audited for:
- Not completing an I-94 form
- Failing to complete Section Two of the I-95 or failing to put your EAD number on documents such as pay stubs and W-prep
- Not completing the I-765 form
- Failing to complete Section Three of the I-94 or failing to put your EAD number on certificates such as diplomas and transcripts
What Happens During An Audit?
According to .gov, there are three ways that you can get audited for not following legal hiring practices:
- A visit from a federal officer (this does not always mean it’s an audit) after receiving a verified complaint about noncompliance with employment eligibility verification requirements
- Random selection by INS of employers who use the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I – 700 in specific industry categories during off-peak hours
- When a company has been identified as having high levels of unauthorized workers employed by using the INS’ Basic Pilot program databases.
During an I-9 audit, one will ask your company to provide documentation regarding employees hired in the past two years (a list of these individuals is required). You may also be asked for copies of all original documents that were used when hiring current employees.
The federal officer conducting this audit has no right to ask you any questions about protected status. They can ask for some basic information like dates of birth or names. There are some circumstances where they can request salary history but keep in mind that there is a lot at stake here!
If you don’t cooperate with the officer entirely, it could result in fines up to $21,563 per violation. In addition, companies can face criminal charges if found to be employing undocumented immigrants.
What If I Get Audited?
If you do get audited, it’s important to remember the process is to determine whether your company followed legal hiring practices. and was in compliance with the law (or broke it).
You will need to pay any fines if they are found guilty of breaking employment eligibility verification requirements. This does not mean that there won’t be consequences for violating these laws!
Getting an audit can lead to losing a contract, having other businesses no longer want to work with you, and even getting shut down completely.. It can also result in criminal charges against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.
Furthermore, the fines associated with these audits are so high that you could potentially put your company out of business.
What To Do If You Get Audited?
There are some steps that you can take to ensure compliance during an audit. For instance, have records of all employees on-hand at the inspection time.
Do not refuse entry or inspect documents requested by officers. Don’t show them any other papers aside from employment eligibility verification requirements unless this request is made in writing beforehand.
Employers should keep records during audits as proof of their compliance! They will often be asked for these documents.
It’s important to follow proper hiring practices even if you don’t think there’s anything at stake because there could always be something down the line. Employers who have been accused of hiring illegal immigrants should consult a local attorney experienced in cases this one as soon as possible.
How to Prepare for An I-9 Audit?
Before the audit, you should ensure that all your I-9 documents are filed correctly.
Maintain copies of each employee’s work permit and I-797 form for three years after leaving the company. Make sure to have a designated person who will be responsible for managing compliance with audits.
If you are using an employment agency, make sure to check their compliance with the law. Make sure that all employees’ documents meet federal requirements and do not expire during the trial period.
If an employee does not have valid documents, you should contact the agency or job board to send a new document. You can show that your company complies with audits by having I-9 tracking software and detailed records of all employees’ work permits.
You should also keep a detailed record of all I-9 documents and their expiration dates.
How to Conduct Your Own I-9 Audit?
You should prepare a list of documents that you will need to conduct the audit.
An employment agency might also send potential employees with fake or expired visas or work permits. Make sure their names do not appear on those lists before hiring them.
You should also check if the employees’ names are on the list of suspected terrorists or lawbreakers.
When it comes to immigration, you do not have much time since audits can happen at any point in your company’s history for another three years after the last audit.
You need to keep records that show that one properly vetted all new hires and their documents approved by authorities.
You will want to compare these records with your HR system regarding each employee’s hiring date, work eligibility status during employment, and termination dates (including any voluntary departures).
Ensure there aren’t discrepancies between electronic data like e-verify printouts versus information stored internally or on paper files. This could indicate unauthorized workers who may have been paid under the table.
If you find any suspicious employees, properly document all your findings and keep them safe for an audit.
You will want to start this process as early as possible since it can be very time-consuming, especially if many files or records need to be checked thoroughly. This is why companies usually hire outside help like immigration lawyers to prevent such mistakes at their workplace.
If you follow these steps, each I-9 audit should go smoothly without difficulties and with great results! You need to do a bit of preparation beforehand, so everything runs flawlessly from the beginning until the end!
Other Compliance Audits to Look Out For
There are many types of audits besides I-9 compliance. Some of these are intertwined with it, others are not.
For example, you need to ensure that your company is in line with environmental regulations and safety measures (OSHA organization). This means having the appropriate equipment like fire extinguishers or testing them regularly.
Your business also needs to follow health regulations regarding food preparation. This includes buying only approved foods from licensed suppliers who can provide safe ingredients. You should always check if there were any recalls on certain products since it’s important not just for legal reasons but also for ethical ones.
You also have to be careful when it comes to some sensitive information at your disposal. Otherwise, an employee can steal data that would hurt your company financially and reputation-wise. That being said, you can take measures to protect your company and make sure that only the people who should have access to it do.
You may want to hire a security firm to test how easy (or difficult) it would be for unauthorized individuals like hackers or other companies to steal data, hack into your network, try to infiltrate their systems, etc.
This will help you prepare accordingly and give yourself peace of mind knowing that everything is done correctly! Then perhaps once every year, if not more often, depending on the industry you are in or certain regulations where applicable, etc.
How to Train Employees On I-9 Compliance?
The most important thing is to make sure that every new employee knows what they need so you not be liable if any audit happens!
This means having them fill out the form again, but this time with their own information. Give them ample time (or do it yourself) and then check everything carefully.
Make sure there are no mistakes or typos because otherwise, all your efforts will go down the drain since errors like these could lead to fines and even more serious consequences, including potential jail sentences depending on how bad the situation gets.
Once someone leaves your company, always remember to let them know to turn in their work permit or show proof of leaving soon after. This comes hand in hand with a departure order, so you don’t have to worry about any legal troubles.
Ensure there is always someone checking, updating, and maintaining the I-94 database since employees come in and go all the time. Still, only authorized individuals mustn’t work for your company! You can also hire an HR manager or outside help to take care of this process without problems.
Resources to Use When Ensuring I-9 Compliance
You can get more information on what constitutes a legal hire. Thus, avoiding discrimination when hiring your employees. This is important for you since it will help avoid any lawsuits or fines if audited by labor boards later on down the line.
You can use specially-curated solutions for I-9 audits, such as the one from WorkBright. There are many other tools available, but you should start to research them on your own to find the best for your needs. All in all, they serve the same function and probably vary in design.
It’s straightforward to find articles online where experts write about I-94 compliance. They also mention how much time should pass before someone has worked legally enough to become a permanent resident. This way, you don’t have to do all of that research yourself!
The main thing is not making mistakes. Apart from potentially getting in trouble with immigration, there could be serious consequences. For instance, losing your existing clients.
Hence, it’s important to be as compliant and thorough as possible! Compliance in business is essential to business security. If you want to stay in business, you might as well play by the rules of the game in which your business presides.
Your Business Protected
You have to make sure that every new employee knows what they need for your company, not liable if any i-9 audit happens.
Ensure there is always someone checking, updating, and maintaining the I-94 database since employees come in and go all the time. Still, only authorized individuals must work for your company!
Be as compliant and thorough as possible to avoid getting into trouble with immigration services. This could have serious consequences like losing clients due to bad publicity.
If you’re interested in learning more about business processes and compliance, check out some of the related articles on the sidebar.