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Are Your I-9s in Order in Case of a Government Inspection?

 There is currently an immigration uptick not only in the state of Georgia, but across the nation, especially in the construction and lumber and trade related industries. While more jobs are available with people to fill those positions, this serves to boost the local and national economy and keeps the unemployment level down. At the same time, businesses need to be sure the employees they are hiring are legally able to work in the U.S and that all paperwork pertaining to a new hire is complete, especially the USCIS Form I-9 for the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

February had the highest number of immigrants in 12 years, making it the highest total since 2007. However, before 2008, border crossings had reached the level of 100,000 per month on a consistent basis, and in 2000 the numbers rose to 200,000 per month.It is interesting that unaccompanied children and families with children were among 65% of the immigrants crossing the border and a majority of them gave themselves up seeking asylum. February's numbers rose to 65% from January's 61%. All of this is bound to have an effect on employment in the U.S. With government inspections on the rise, are you prepared?

To begin with, a written company policy is a good idea for procedures pertaining to Form I-9 completion. According to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: "Employees must complete every applicable field in Section 1 of the Form I-9 with the exception of the fields requesting the employees' telephone number, email address, and Social Security number. However, an employee must enter his or her Social Security number if the employer participates in E-Verify. Follow the Form I-9 instructions when determining if a field can be blank or if N/A is required. The instructions state when an employee may use N/A or must use N/A. Required fields must be completed with either the information requested or N/A."

Section 2 of Form I-9 must be completed by the end of the third day of employment, along with legible copies of original documentation from the employee attached to the I-9. Keep current and active I-9s in one file and terminated employee I-9s in another. There are very specific guidelines pertaining to the proper destruction timelines for terminated employees: three years after hire or one year after termination - whichever is the latter.Also, any corrections or changes made to the original I-9 must be lined through and initialed and dated—never use white-out or similar products to make corrections. If a new I-9 is filled out, attach it to the back of the original I-9.

Having your I-9s stored together away from other new hire employment forms and personnel files is crucial so you will have them readily accessible in case of a government audit. Make copies of each I-9 for back up in case the originals are taken off site and lost or misplaced in case of a Notice of Inspection (NOI) from the government. This will also come in handy for I-9 audits in general.

If you are not prepared for a possible NOI, you can be hit with hefty fines that could have otherwise been easily avoided. According to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE): "Monetary penalties for knowingly hire and continuing to employ violations range from $375 to $16,000 per violation, with repeat offenders receiving penalties, at the higher end. Penalties for substantive violations, which includes failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $110 to $1,100 per violation." In addition: "Penalties for substantive violations, which includes failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $110 to $1,100 per violation up to a range of $216 to $2,156 -- not per individual form, but per error or omission on that form."

Government raids and administrative inspections are on the rise. If you do happen to receive an NOI, you will have three days to gather all of your I-9 forms (and whatever else is requested) for federal government inspection. Are you prepared if this should happen? Let's hope this never happens to your business but being prepared can help. Having an I-9 internal audit performed by an outside party such as Stellaris Group in Roswell, Georgia will save you and your business untold fines and possibly imprisonment for incomplete or falsified records that may be discovered during a government audit.

Stellaris Group specializes in all facets of Human Resource Management and Audit Management and Assistance to keep you compliant with the state and federal government. They can help guide you and help you to avoid fines and fees that could ultimately lead to the loss of your business. Call Stellaris Group HR Management in Roswell today and ask about having an internal I-9 audit to prevent potential problems that you can certainly do without.


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