Top Four IMAGE Best Practices to Avoid I-9 Violations & Fines

U.S. Department of Homeland SecurityImmigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a voluntary certification program, IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employees), designed to build cooperative relationships between the government and the private sector to increase the cooperative relationships that strengthen overall hiring practices. In order to become a member, a company must pass an I-9 audit and follow the twelve best practices as provided by ICE.

As a charter member of the IMAGE program, Staff Management’s experience has shown that four of the twelve best practices stand out as actions that companies should complete to help avoid I-9 violations and fines – even if they are not interested in applying for IMAGE membership. ICE’s “Fact Sheet: Form I-9 Inspection Overview” lists all fines that can be incurred if a company is found in violation of ICE policies.

The top four IMAGE best practices to avoid I-9 Violations & Fines:

  1. Use E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) employment eligibility verification program, to verify the employment eligibility of all new hires. Using E-verify ensures you are ahead of the curve. Many states are beginning to require participation by law. By participating in E-verify now, you show you are being proactive as a company to keep your workforce legal. Updated E-verify statistics show that 98.6% of submissions are employment authorized.
  2. Require the Form I-9 and E-Verify process to be conducted only by individuals who have received appropriate training and include a secondary review as part of each employee’s verification to minimize the potential for a single individual to subvert the process. The secondary review of the I-9 has been extremely valuable in correcting human error. With fines being applied for clerical errors, it is a critical step.
  3. Arrange for annual Form I-9 audits by an external auditing firm or a trained employee not otherwise involved in the Form I-9 process. By completing an annual audit, a leading American retailer could have avoided a fine of more than $1 million after an I-9 audit due to a technical violation.
  4. Establish a procedure to report to ICE credible information of suspected criminal misconduct in the employment eligibility verification process. As an IMAGE member, Staff Management has a dedicated Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contact person for gray areas. Companies who are not IMAGE certified should still be reaching out to their local DHS office to become acquainted with their local representative. This interaction will show the local representative and the DHS that the company is trying to do the right thing and can be a resource when guidance is needed.

What are other best practices to follow to avoid I-9 violations and fines?