I-9 Audit Compliance Discoveries Help Businesses Avoid Violations & Penalties

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PrimePay uncovers several employment eligibility verification best practices that every business owner needs to know. Staying in compliance is critical should the government conduct an I-9 audit.

Payroll, Tax, HR, Insurance & Benefit Services

Payroll, Tax, HR, Insurance & Benefit Services

What ICE is doing by these audits is really creating a culture of compliance and trying to bring more companies to voluntarily comply with the laws.

PrimePay Inc., a leading nationwide provider of payroll, tax, HR, insurance and benefit services, uncovered a number of employer hiring best practices related to I-9 employment verification during a proactive I-9 internal audit of their own processes. Several of their discoveries may surprise business owners and hiring managers… including how the use of red ink on a Form I-9 could put a company at risk for a penalty.

Over the last several years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have intensified their nationwide I-9 efforts to battle illegal immigration violations. The government is fining employers for failing to certify that employees are authorized to work in the United States and for not properly reviewing the acceptable documentation to ensure eligibility. “What ICE is doing by these audits is really creating a culture of compliance and trying to bring more companies to voluntarily comply with the laws,” said Julie Myers Wood, former ICE chief in a recent interview with Fox Business.

Just last week the U.S. government released these statistics on I-9 audits for the current 2011 fiscal year:

  • 2,338 employer I-9 audits launched… as compared to a total of 2,196 audits for all of 2010
  • 157 criminal arrests of employers… as compared to last year’s criminal arrests of 196 employers which resulted in 119 convictions
  • $7.1 million in fines levied

The government is diligent in outlining what documents need to be reviewed and verified to stay I-9 compliant with employment eligibility requirements. But there isn’t much information that explains what not to write on a Form I-9, how to handle corrections and which color of ink the government prefers. The I-9 compliance discoveries PrimePay uncovered can help business owners and hiring managers answer these questions.

PrimePay did their own internal I-9 audit to make sure their I-9 processes and procedures did not put them at risk for a violation, fine or penalty. After several calls to Homeland Security to make sure the employment eligibility forms PrimePay had on file were in compliance, they uncovered a number of I-9 penalty-resulting mishaps that will get a business into hot water with ICE:

  • Red ink is not acceptable on a Form I-9. The government prefers black ink. Blue ink is fine... red is not.
  • Do not use a highlighter to call attention to anything on the I-9 form.
  • Do not put any miscellaneous marks or notes in the margins or white space around the Form I-9. Even the slightest little check mark at the top of the can put a business at risk for a penalty.
  • When a correction is needed, do not use white out or corrective tape. The government needs to be able to see what information was there before the correction was made to the form.
  • When making a correction, the government recommends the following… cross out the item that needs correcting by putting a line through the incorrect information, write in the new information and initial and date when the correction was made.

The government could also issue I-9 penalties for a number of other reasons including:

  • Providing too much documentation
  • Failing to list the I-9 documentation in the correct column
  • Showing an inaccurate issuing authority
  • Reviewing photocopies or faxed copies of documentation
  • Accepting expired U.S. passports

About PrimePay
PrimePay, Inc. specializes in providing payroll, tax, HR, insurance and benefit services for small and medium sized businesses. Recognized nationally, PrimePay offers full service payroll as well as options for web payroll entry and paperless payroll for an eco-friendly solution. From flexible spending accounts and retirement plans to workers’ comp insurance and time and attendance solutions, PrimePay strives to help clients increase profitability and improve efficiencies. PrimePay’s area of expertise with franchise payroll services has resulted in a number of national franchise accounts and affinity marketing programs for well known organizations. PrimePay was founded in 1986 and has more than 35 offices nationwide. Find them at http://www.primepay.com.


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Nancy Mullin
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