Since Fiscal Year 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has audited more than 6,000 businesses suspected of hiring illegal labor, imposed more than $76 million in financial sanctions, and debarred more than 400 individuals and companies. Therefore, it is essential that employers ensure that their employment eligibility programs remain compliant.
However, as the HireRight Employment Screening Benchmarking Report reveals, keeping up with evolving regulations and maintaining a compliant program can be challenging for many employers.
According to the Benchmarking Report, 42 percent of employers have discovered inaccurate information through the employment eligibility verification process. The Benchmarking Report also shows that only 51 percent of employers use E-Verify and 38 percent have no plans to use it.
With the risk of steep fines for improper employment eligibility programs and the constantly evolving regulatory landscape, it is recommended that organizations continually evaluate and improve their existing programs.
Below are four ways for employers to improve their employment eligibility verification programs in order to help maintain compliance.
1. Audit Existing Form I-9 and E-Verify Program
Start by conducting a self-audit to be sure your organization is meeting all employment eligibility verification requirements. For example, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that the Form I-9 be completed no later than three business days after the employee starts work. If E-Verify is used, certain forms of identification require photo-matching through a federal database.
Employers should audit Form I-9 paperwork for mistakes and correct them. Be sure to train all human resources personnel involved in the employment eligibility verification process on the I-9 requirements and the risks of failing to meet those requirements.
2. Automate with Electronic I-9
Upgrading to an electronic Form I-9 solution allows an organization to move away from time-consuming and error-prone manual processes. According to the Benchmarking Report, 60 percent of employers maintain a paper Form I-9 process.
A paper I-9 process can be time-consuming and increases the risks for human-error. Just one mistake on an I-9 form can result in heavy fines, and in the event of an ICE audit, an organization could be fined for every mistake on every form. An electronic I-9 solution can help to prevent mistakes and facilitate compliance by providing error messages for incomplete or incorrect paperwork and issuing automatic reminders prior to employment authorization expiring.
3. Monitor E-Verify Legislation
In the first quarter of 2012, nearly 1,000 new immigration bills were introduced in 45 states. In September, 2011, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, of Texas, introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2885), which, if passed, would require all employers to use E-Verify during hiring. Although favorably reported out of the House Judiciary Committee in September 2011, there has been no further activity on this legislation since.
To stay apprised of E-Verify and employment eligibility legislation changes, employers should put a process in place to monitor state and federal regulations. According to the Benchmarking Report, 29 percent of respondents use in-house counsel while 23 percent rely on their background screening provider to keep them informed of such changes.
4. Keep a Form I-9 Audit Trail
If your organization is subject to an audit, ICE will issue a Notice of Inspection (NOI), which gives you three days to prepare. While 69 percent of respondents from the Benchmarking Report feel completely or very prepared for an audit, those employers that rely on paper based processes could be under-prepared in the event of an audit.
With an electronic Form I-9 solution in place, an employer can avoid sifting through thousands of paper forms. An automated solution stores electronic I-9 documents and establishes a digital audit trail that can help you quickly prepare for an audit.
Complimentary White Paper: Practical Steps to Help Ensure Form I-9 Compliance
Discover the best practices of a compliant Form I-9 and E-Verify program by downloading:
Practical Steps to Help Ensure Form I-9 Compliance