E-Verify and USCIS Form I-9 Compliance

Since 1986, all U. S. employers have been required to complete USCIS Form I-9 to verify the employment eligibility of all new hires.  This process requires employers to attest that they have verified a new employee’s eligibility to work legally in the United States after examining the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents within the first three days of employment.

In the many years since completion of Form I-9 became mandatory, the nation’s employment eligibility verification laws and enforcement efforts have continued to evolve, becoming increasingly stringent during this time.  Today, numerous federal and state laws have been specifically modeled to increase both voluntary and mandatory employer participation in E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic employment eligibility verification program.  Today, participation in E-Verify is mandatory for all federal contractors and subcontractors, and several states have also implemented legislation requiring employers to confirm a new hire’s employment eligibility through the electronic system.

On its face, the I-9/E-Verify process may seem simple enough:  Employers are liable for "knowingly" hiring, recruiting or referring for a fee "unauthorized aliens.”  Most legitimate employers understand this rule, but there are many traps that could ensnare even careful companies.  For instance, even the simple failure to complete the I-9 properly or a failure to retain the form for the required period can result in fines for each record keeping violation.  In large companies, the potential exposure can easily reach millions of dollars.  Similarly, the seemingly innocuous practice of asking an employee to provide specific documents to quickly complete Form I-9 can cause an employer to be investigated and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice for immigration-related employment discrimination.  Moreover, given the government’s focus on curbing illegal immigration by cracking down on employers of unauthorized workers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is expected to substantially increase its civil enforcement activities nationwide, and it is working closely with the U.S. Department of Labor and other law enforcement agencies to bring large, high profile criminal actions against employers who have multiple problems, which can include immigration violations, labor law violations, document fraud, alien smuggling, and other offenses.  These developments have made it much more important for U.S. employers to be significantly more vigilant in their immigration compliance efforts.

Goel & Anderson combines experience, expertise, and our software-based I-9 compliance management system to help employers understand their responsibilities, navigate the potential obstacles, and achieve compliance with their immigration-related obligations.  We are available to conduct sample I-9 audits for corporate human resources departments, and will lead training sessions on I-9 and E-Verify to identify “best practices” to minimize exposure and achieve proper compliance.

While we strongly prefer taking stock of a client’s practices and proposing corrective measures as a preventative measure, this may not always be possible.  In the current enforcement oriented climate, employers may find themselves unexpectedly facing an actual government inquiry or investigation requiring immediate legal guidance and representation.  In such situations, Goel & Anderson’s Compliance Practice can provide skilled representation in the audit, Notice of Findings, and hearing phases of the investigation.