I-9 Compliance - Why Such a Simple Form Can Lead to Big Fines

The I-9 Form serves two purposes. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses the I-9 form to monitor the illegal hiring of foreign workers who don't have work authorization in the U.S. and to monitor illegal employer discrimination against foreign workers who have work authorization in the U.S. This dual use of the I-9 Form creates a very narrow path that employers must walk when hiring a new employee and when completing the I-9 Form.

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It is important for all employers to understand the importance of I-9 compliance and accurately complete the I-9 Form. Mistakes in filling out the I-9 Form can cause serious problems. If the employer does not ask the employee to complete section 1 of the I-9 Form, the section that asks the employee to declare his legal status in the United States, or if the employer does not ask for proof of work authorization in the U.S., as outlined in section 2 of the I-9 Form, the employer is not fulfilling her duty to verify the work authorization of her employees. This can lead to government investigations, audits, and fines. On the other hand, if the employer asks a new employee for more documents than the I-9 Form requires, in verifying that the employee has the right to work in the U.S., or if the employer does not accept valid work authorization documents from a new employee, the Department of Homeland Security can fine the employer for discriminating against foreign nationals who have lawfully work authorization in the U.S. For this reason, it is imperative that when your business fills out an I-9 Form for a new hire, you and your employees know what information to ask for and know when the form has been accurately and properly completed. Anything more or less can lead to fines up to $5500.00 per mistake.


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