Risks of Noncompliance

Employers who fail to comply with I-9 requirements risk substantial penalties and other negative consequences. Even unintentional violations or minor technical mistakes in documents can lead to disciplinary action.

Many businesses find it beneficial to work regularly with an experienced I-9 lawyer to reduce the risks of noncompliance. Civil fines, ineligibility for government contracts, and even criminal liability are some of the risks employers face for failing to comply with the law. Our firm can help you stay compliant with regulations by training HR professionals to recognize violations in I-9 forms.

I-9 Requirements in General

Form I-9 is a federal government form that documents an individual’s identity and ability to work legally in the United States. All employers are required to ensure that each person they hire has adequately completed the I-9 form.

Moreover, employers must also complete a portion of the form and maintain it so that it is available for inspection on request. The risks of noncompliance may be low for employers who have established systems for reviewing documentation for each hire and document storage and ready retrieval.

Civil and Criminal Violations of I-9 and Related Requirements

The federal government can levy civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance with I-9 and other immigration-related employment requirements. Risks of noncompliance may be triggered for violations such as:

  • Knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized persons
  • Failing to comply with I-9 verification requirements
  • Participating in document fraud in connection with I-9 verification requirements
  • Failing to notify the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of a Final Nonconfirmation of a worker’s eligibility
  • Requiring someone to pay or post security to provide financial indemnity against potential violation of employment verification requirements

Criminal penalties may be imposed when an employer engages in recruiting, hiring, or referring unauthorized persons. These penalties could include hefty fines or imprisonment.

Penalties for Substantive and Uncorrected Technical Violations

While the actual amounts of fines may vary according to circumstances, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency that operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), publishes a list of standard amounts for violations of I-9 requirements. Even when a violation is minor or technical, if the employer fails to take adequate steps to remedy the violation before the deadline, that technical violation may be penalized as if it were a substantive violation.

The risks of noncompliance increase when an employer has a higher percentage of I-9 violations compared with the total number of employees. ICE bases the amount of a fine on the violation percentage and the existence of prior offenses. For instance, the penalty for a first-time violation involving less than ten percent of I-9 forms could be as low as $230. Where there are one or more prior violations and a violation percentage of 50 percent or higher, the fine could be close to $3,000.

The agency could increase or decrease the level of a fine based on several factors. These include the size of the business, the good faith of the employer, the seriousness of the violation, the presence of authorized aliens, and the employer’s history.

More Information About the Risks of Noncompliance

The risks of noncompliance could vary depending on the employer’s good faith efforts to comply with requirements. ICE has the discretion to issue a Warning Notice if verification violations are noted, but the agency can also issue a Notice of Intent to Fine for violations. An experienced immigration lawyer could help reduce the risks of noncompliance or defend against allegations of noncompliance and seek to mitigate any negative consequences. To discuss your situation, call today.

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