The IMAGE Program

Recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has ramped up its encouragement of employers to participate in its IMAGE program. The Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program was originally announced back in July of 2006. The intent of the program was and is to prevent those who are not legally authorized to work in the U.S. to unlawfully gain employment. The IMAGE program also looks to find and minimize vulnerabilities in the employment process that might help unauthorized workers from becoming employed.

What is the IMAGE Program?

The IMAGE program looks to end the employment of illegal workers and prevent unauthorized workers from obtaining fake credentials. It attempts to do this by working with employers to improve hiring practices so that only people authorized to legally work in the U.S. get through the process. It also helps employers comply with federal immigration rules.

To participate in IMAGE, an employer first completes a self-assessment questionnaire. Additionally, the employer enrolls in the E-Verify program, which requires the employer to submit a new hire Form I-9 information into a government-run database to check against government records and ascertain whether the information provided matches the government records. The IMAGE program also requires the employer to establish a program for hiring and employment verification in writing. ICE will review this. The employer will also need to submit to a companywide I-9 audit.

ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will also provide participating employers with education and training on the hiring process. The trainings will also focus on how to detect fraudulent documentation.

Why Would an Employer Participate in IMAGE?

To participate in IMAGE, an employer essentially has to open up its books for ICE examination. It is inviting the government to examine your I-9 records and hiring practices. Why, then, would an employer participate in IMAGE? As of now, the IMAGE program is voluntary, but there are some benefits to participating that employers may find enticing. For instance, employers participating in IMAGE will have reduced fines. Knowingly employing an unauthorized immigrant can result in civil penalties ranging from $539 to $21,563. If it is a repeat offense, the fines will fall at the farther end of this range. Additionally, Form I-9 penalties can range from $216 to $2,156 per worker. Participation in the IMAGE program makes an employer eligible for fine mitigation.

Additionally, participating in the program reduces the likelihood of an unauthorized employer working for the company. As a result, the risk of lawsuits and fines that can come with this will be reduced. Participating in IMAGE could also boost a company’s image. Some companies may find the status of being “ICE” certified attractive and want to advertise this.

Immigration Attorneys Protecting the Best Interests of Our Clients

Participating in government programs such as IMAGE may appeal to many employers. The benefits can be substantial, but they do not come without a cost. Before you let the government into your books and employment records, contact Nachman, Phulwani, Zimovcak Law Group, P.C. to make sure this is the best decision for your company. 

If you should have any questions or need more information about the ways in which the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please contact the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group – VISASERVE – U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers by e-mailing us at or by calling us at 201-670-0006 (x107). For more up-to-date immigration and nationality law information you can also visit our Law Firm’s website at