Stay Vigilant for the ICE Audit: Leveraging Strategic Technology to Elevate Your I-9 Compliance
For almost three years, our Tracker I-9 team did not have a customer seek our help in responding to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) I-9 compliance audit. That changed two weeks ago.
While ICE isn’t the only government agency with jurisdiction to audit I-9s, it’s the only one with the authority to issue fines for I-9s found to be missing or incorrect. So, when it comes to preparing for ICE audits, organizations must focus on both the I-9 form itself and the filing processes surrounding it in order to achieve optimal efficiency, visibility, and compliance. Otherwise, they run the risk of being fined.
Compliance costs skyrocketed across industries amid the pandemic, and today’s paper Form I9s typically show a 76% error rate. With the average fine for each substantive I-9 error being ~$2000, the likelihood that companies might have hundreds of errors on file, and the high chance of an ICE audit within the next 10 years, companies that prepare in advance have the opportunity to reduce risk and save enormous amounts of money, reduce paperwork, and eliminate anxiety.
While the number of ICE audits have seemed to plateau or decrease in recent years, there are signs that an uptick could be on the horizon. Our team here at Mitratech went almost three years without a customer reaching out for support in responding to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit — until only a few weeks ago.
The Root of Non-Compliance
Strategic compliance teams know that I-9 non-compliance often is symptomatic of systemic inefficiencies that require more than a quick fix. For example, many retail and hospitality companies struggle to handle the cycles of I-9 processes for temporary authorized associates, and must manually track their I-9s. This work is time-consuming and tedious, and without a software solution that tracks I-9s, it must be done manually. In other cases, companies may find that they have held onto I9 forms that have outlived the company’s retention policy because there was no simple way to find and get rid of them. Handling the I-9s of remote workers – a relatively new challenge to the HR space — is a source of additional opportunities for error. These inefficiencies, bloat, and continuously shifting rules and regulations are frustrating for HR and immigration employees and often lead to fineable errors.
What does ICE say about I-9 compliance?
Chances are, your organization will get audited at some point. The fine structure today is friendlier towards companies that have made a good faith effort to limit errors, and whose errors are minor and not systemic throughout the organization. In other words, companies with a fine-grained strategy and software that supports their goals should be in good shape when it comes to ICE audits. But don’t just take our word for it – here is what we found on ICE.gov:
“To determine the base fine amount, the number of substantive violations/uncorrected technical or procedural failures and knowingly hire/continue to employ violations will be divided by the number of Forms I-9 that should have been presented for inspection. The percentage from this calculation is the violation percentage that will determine the minimum and maximum civil penalty base fine amount. This percentage may change depending on whether the offense being evaluated is the employer’s first offense, second offense, or a third or higher offense.”
Following those calculations, ICE determines the total civil penalty fine amount by considering the following five statutory factors:
- Size of the business
- Good faith of the employer
- The seriousness of the violation(s)
- The involvement of unauthorized worker(s)
- Any history of previous violation(s)
Leveraging technology to guarantee success in your I-9 compliance
Manually managing I-9s can lead to duplicate data entry, missing form fields, and missed deadlines. But the process does not need to be manual (or nearly as risky). In fact, the leading I-9 software solution has a track record of over 20 years of I-9 support and zero fines. Even with audits looming on the horizon, companies that work with expert technology partners to keep their data accurate and enjoy greater peace of mind surrounding their business continuity and compliance.
The best software solution will enable new employees to complete their I-9 forms quickly and completely, will review them for accuracy and completeness, and will stay up to date and compliant with the over 1,200 rules that a staffing team must stay up to date on is a critical part of a top-tier compliance strategy. When secure and expansive I-9 and immigration software is built into your HR or compliance team’s DNA, your organization can stay ready for an ICE audit — regardless of market trends and the political landscape.
Mitratech’s Tracker I-9 Wins Prestigious 2022 HR Tech Award
Tracker I-9 solution has been named the Core HR/Workforce Best Innovative or Emerging Tech Solution
by the Lighthouse Research & Advisory 2022 HR Tech Awards program.