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If an Employer Is Found to Have I-9 Violations, What Fines Might They Face?

by | Sep 16, 2021 | I-9 and E-Verify, Immigration

This is the eighth post in a series heralding the publication of my new book: I-9 Employment Verification eGuide: A Practical and Time-Saving Resource for HR Professionals. This free guide helps HR professionals gain a comprehensive understanding of the I-9 verification process.

These blog posts are covering the first chapter of the book, “Top 10 Questions from Employers About I-9s.” So far, I have posted on:

In this post, I will go over the possible civil penalties your company could accrue for Form I-9 violations.

How to Deal with Problems in Form I-9 Uncovered By an Internal Audit

As an employer, if you fail to properly prepare, retain, or produce the Form I-9 for specific employees upon the government’s request, you face more than jeopardizing the employment relationship with your international worker. You could also be forced to pay fines.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) consistently collects money from employers in these kinds of I-9 penalty cases. It amounts to millions per year. On average, employers pay about $2,000 per I-9 due to their violations.

Common Violations

What are common violations that employers make with the Form I-9? They include:

  • Failure to prepare or present the form during an audit (the most substantive)
  • Failure to review and verify a proper List A, B, or C document
  • Failure to sign the attestation in Section 2

You may note that all of these violations have to do with the absence of a required action. Check, check, and re-check your forms. 

Another example of a serious violation: knowingly employing an unauthorized employee. Employers caught in this situation may be fined, criminally prosecuted, and barred from government contracts. Often, an incomplete or missing Form I-9 creates the trail that leads to the discovery of an unauthorized employee.

Expected Cost of Penalties

How much can you expect to pay in fines? Penalties range from $230 to $2,292 per violation. The amount can worsen or ameliorate depending on certain mitigating factors.

Prevention Strategies

I will say it again: check, check, and re-check. 

You can reduce mistakes and improve accuracy at your company with these tactics:

  • Proactive internal audits
  • Form-specific training
  • Education under the guidance of an immigration compliance attorney

For all of these measures, consistency is key. Routine audits, training, and education are considered “good faith mitigating factors.” They may reduce the incidence and/or severity of violations and penalties. 

Remember that, throughout training and audits, attorney-client privilege affords some confidentiality. If you do uncover incomplete or missing forms, this leaves some space for speedy correction. 

Next week, we will go over the ninth topic from Chapter 1: How are penalties for verification violations determined?

Want a thorough overview of the entire I-9 verification process? Download my new eGuide now.



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