Meticulous I-9 record-keeping can be challenging but is a must for any business.

Meticulous I-9 record-keeping can be challenging but is a must for any business.

Few words make HR professionals cringe more that “I-9” and few words could be less important to small business owners and start-up founders. Seen as either a pain-in-the-you-know-what or an unnecessary evil, the I-9 is something that your small business can’t afford to overlook.

According to a recent presentation to HR professionals at the SHRM 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition, David Fowler, Vice President of Product Strategy at Equifax Workforce Solutions, I-9 audits are on the rise:

Worksite Enforcement of I-9 and e-verify by ICE

Source: David Fowler “ICE-Ing the I-9 Audit Process” – SHRM 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition

Takeaways from this chart:

  • The average final order (fine) equates to $25,252 for each company
  • I-9 inspections have almost 500% over the past 5 years
  • Case initiated increased by 153% over the past 5 years

How can you ensure that your company will pass an I-9 audit if ICE comes a-knocking?

Fowler suggests the following:

  1. Document I-9 and e-verify documentation policies in your HR policy manual.
  2. Train employees and new hires on how to fill out the I-9 correctly.
  3. Perform regular internal audits on your I-9 process and documents.
  4. Purge firms for terminated employees when document retention timelines have been satisfied.

This can be a daunting task for small businesses and over-worked HR professionals who already have a million and one things to do as it is. Moreover, it’s relatively hard to convey the importance of filling out a form correctly and the time that goes into it when it’s compared to other revenue generating duties. With that being said, here are some suggestions on how to keep I-9 compliance at the forefront of your mind without it taking up too much time:

  • Set aside 30 minutes a week to review your I-9’s and compare them against Federal regulations in the M-274 Employer I-9 Handbook
  • Make sure two sets of eyes are trained on how to correctly fill out I-9’s and ensure that each new I-9 is correct. Build this into your new hire process.
  • Utilize a service such as Equifax’s I-9 Management service for online storage.
  • Hire an outside firm to handle your I-9 compliance. Jumpstart:HR works with all of our clients to ensure I-9 and e-Verify compliance and has a stand-alone audit service that clears up vulnerabilities before ICE can ever come knocking.