What Happens During an I-9 Audit?

Most of us are familiar with Form I-9. It is the federal government form that new employees must complete for their employers within 3 days of hire. The purpose of a Form I-9 is to verify that the employee can legally work in the U.S. In a Form I-9, there is a list of documents that employees can produce to verify both their identity and their authorization to work in the U.S. The employee can choose which documents from the lists they wish to use and an employer cannot require an employee to present more of different documents. Employers have to accept the documents if they appear to be genuine on their face and refer on relate to the person showing them. Employers should take care to ensure that Form I-9s are accurate and keep the necessary and appropriate (retention) records in the event of an I-9 audit.

What Is an I-9 Audit?

An I-9 audit is an immigration audit conducted by federal immigration officials from either Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Homeland Security Investigations (HIS). HIS is actually a division of ICE. Immigration officials do not require a warrant to conduct an I-9 audit, but the audit does involve an official review of an employer’s I-9 forms to check for accuracy and to verify that all employees have proper work authorization.

Ahead of an I-9 audit, immigration officials must issue a Notice of Inspection (NOI) to the employer at least three days prior to conducting the audit. To conduct the audit, immigration officials can either go to the employer’s workplace to review the I-9s or can ask the employer to send the necessary records to them directly. Regardless of which way the I-9 audit is conducted, employers should prepare for a thorough review of all I-9 documentation. During the audit, I-9 forms are matched against the most current employee payroll roster. This is to check for any discrepancies.

Federal immigration officials will take care to thoroughly review I-9 documentation for accuracy. Sections 1 and 2 of the forms will be reviewed to verify accuracy. Section 3 will also be reviewed for accuracy, but this review will only occur if there have been any changes made, such as changes to employment status. Documentation presented for Form I-9 will also be reviewed during the audit. Regardless of whether the documents were from List A, List B, or List C, they will be checked for validity. It is a critical part of the I-9 audit process that supporting documentation be verified as authentic and valid.

To help avoid an audit or make the audit process easier, employers should always strive to be thorough and accurate in overseeing the completion of Form I-9. Complying is simple, but even minor issues can cause big headaches. In the event that a legal violation has been found to have occurred, serious fines and stiff penalties can be the result.

Immigration Law Attorneys

For assistance in all things immigration and employment, you can count on the dedicated team of immigration attorneys at Nachman, Phulwani, Zimovcak Law Group, P.C. to be provided with consistent, trusted guidance. Contact us today.