By: Debra Kabalkin on July 27th, 2015

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The Cost of I-9 Form Errors

Risk Management | Talent Acquisition

When we engage with a new client as part of our HR management engagements, one of the first things we look at is the state of their I-9 forms. We look at all sections for completeness and accuracy and all too often the results are the same – multiple violations caused by simple errors. It's easy to make a mistake, the form can be quite confusing and sometimes employees don't have the necessary paperwork needed within the short time frame required. With our help, hopefully you will fix any current uncertainties and avoid paying hefty penalty fines down the road.

Common Problems with Form 1-9 Requirements:

  • Using the wrong version. The most recent version has an effective date of 3/8/13 on the bottom right corner of the form.
  • Failing to complete all sections of the I-9 Form. You should ensure that all required fields are completed and a complete description of the documents presented is recorded. For example, if a new hire presents a social security card, you must write out the agency who issued the card (i.e., Social Security Administration or Department of Health and Human Services).
  • Completing the Form after the required deadlines. The new hire must complete Section 1 on or before the first day. Section 2 must be completed by the employer within three days of the employee’s start date.
  • Not ensuring that all appropriate sections of the form are signed.

5 Factors That Determine Non-Compliance Penalty Fees

It is imperative now more than ever to stay focused on compliance.  Lack of intention is not an excuse for lack of accountability. If your company was to get audited by DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the penalty amount is based on five factors:

  1. the size of the business,
  2. good faith effort to comply,
  3. seriousness of violation,
  4. whether the violation involved unauthorized workers, and
  5. history of previous violations.

According to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), "its major provisions stipulate legalization of undocumented aliens who had been continuously unlawfully present since 1982, legalization of certain agricultural workers, sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, and increased enforcement at U.S. borders." The penalities for IRCA violations range in cost based on the number of offenses and paperwork errors.

IRCA Penalty Violation Costs:

  • Paperwork violations fines range from $110 to $1,100 per violation.
  • First offense $375-$3,200 for each unauthorized employee.
  • Second offense $3,200-$6,500 per unauthorized worker.
  • Third offense $4,300-$16,000 per worker.

How to Avoid Getting Fined for I-9 Form Non-Compliance

Employers should implement a compliance plan for their organization which includes conducting regular I-9 audits. If mistakes or errors are found, make any necessary corrections to forms immediately.  The use of E-Verify is also a great tool to ensure compliance. E-Verify helps businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States, and it's free and easy to use. For more information about I-9 Compliance, visit my colleague's blog on "How to Ensure Form I-9 Compliance."