How to Prepare for an I-9 Audit

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Recently, there has been considerable government activity surrounding I-9 forms, and many organizations have had these audited. Make sure yours are correctly and completely filled out and that you have an updated form for everyone in your workforce with appropriate documentation. Audit your I-9 forms before someone else does, and ensure your purge them on an appropriate schedule. If your organization does end up experiencing an I-9 audit, prepare by taking these steps:

  1. Make sure your organization has a completed I-9 form and the appropriate background documentation for all employees hired after November 6, 1986. Copies of the most recent I-9 form can be downloaded from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. You might note that a new I-9 form just came out and that should be used immediately.
  2. Ask new hires to have their documentation and form completed by their first day on the job, and that at least one piece of documentation presented includes the employee’s photograph.
  3. Copy the documentation presented. Though it’s not required by the government, it is good practice to begin as it saves much time if you need to verify any documentation at a later date.
  4. Place all current I-9s in a separate binder; do not include in the employee file.
  5. Use E-Verify, the web-based verification companion to the I-9 form. This free program provides an automated link to federal databases, helping employers confirm the employment authorization of new hires. We have not recommended that employers use this and it’s not required in IL for example.
  6. Ask employees to specify their status and classification on the I-9 form if they indicate they are “aliens authorized to work.”
  7. Audit your own files, which will give you the opportunity to correct anything.
  8. Place a note in your I-9 binder indicating the date that you audited the files. And note that you’ve used this as an opportunity to update forms that were missing information. It is often recommended that you make changes in a different color ink and again note that on your note to the binder.
  9. Retain the I-9 forms for as long as the employee works for you. After he or she leaves the organization, you must retain the I-9 form for at least three years after the date of hire, or one year after the employment termination date—whichever is longer.
  10. Ensure that the forms comply with the Department of Homeland Security’s standards and can be easily accessible by auditors. Forms can be retained on paper or microform, or electronically.
  11. Review each I-9 form to make sure that all information is completed in its entirety. Fines will be assessed for incomplete information, and can range from $110 to more than $1,000 per violation.

To learn about more compliance-related organizational challenges, download our eBook,The 30-Minute Guide to HR: A Quick Guide to Success in HR for the Busy and Confused.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


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