Unfortunately, it might not be possible to avoid an I-9 audit completely. Staffing is one of the industries that gets I-9 audited the most, along with construction, hospitality, food and agriculture, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that you’ll receive a Notice of Inspection (NOI) from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But you can be prepared for an audit, and reduce the chances of being fined.
How do you prepare for an I-9 audit? You conduct one of your own!
Review your records. Start by making sure you have I-9s for everyone who’s worked for your company in the past 5 years or so, whether they still work for you or not.
Check the documents. Now review the I-9s themselves, keeping an eye out for:
- Wrong dates
- Dates past the grace period for completing an I-9
- Lack of appropriate documentation
- Incomplete I-9s
- White-out – this is a big one, as it’s believed to indicate fraud rather than an innocent error
Now, you can’t correct the flawed I-9s; any errors have to be left there. But knowing what and where those errors are will help you in two ways:
- If you get audited, you can declare these errors early in the process, showing good faith to the investigators
- Now you know what training your staffers need for document completion and retention
Have written policies for recording hire and termination dates, re-hires, remote hires, E-Verify results, etc., and be sure your staffers know what these policies are and where they can look them up.
While the ICE has established guidelines about retaining paper I-9s, there’s no single government-approved electronic storage solution. So it’s best to keep paper and electronic files, with off-site storage in the mix.
Next month: What if you get audited?