Increased Form I-9 Fines Released by Department of Homeland Security

March 1, 2024 by Vijay Thakkar

It has been almost four decades since the Immigration Reform and Control Act was introduced in 1986. Yet, many employers still have trouble understanding the importance of avoiding common Form I-9 compliance violations. These violations can have a serious impact on a business, and there is a broad range of Form I-9 compliance violations resulting from negligence. The penalties the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can impose for even the most benign can be very costly and detrimental to employers.

For industries that typically employ a large number of immigrants, but even for small businesses, immigration compliance is a business necessity. To prevent costly errors, improve I-9 administration and minimize the risk of violations in future operations, every organization should seek to establish a detailed and comprehensive policy and adhere to it. 

In February 2024, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released increased fines for Form I-9 civil penalties to account for annual inflation. The new fines are effective for Form I-9 penalties assessed after February 12, 2024, for associated violations that occurred after November 2, 2015.

To avoid Form I-9 fines, employers need to be aware of the recent adjustments:

  • The penalties now range from $281 to $2,789(previously $272 to $2,701) for the paperwork violation (per relevant individual)
  • The penalty for the first offense for unlawful employment of aliens has increased from $676 – $5,404 to $698 – $5,579, per unauthorized alien.
  • The penalty for the second offense for unlawful employment of aliens has increased from $5,404 – $13,508 to $5,579 – $13,946, per such alien.
  • The penalty for the third offense for unlawful employment of aliens has increased from $8,106 – $27,018 to $8,369 – $27,894, per such alien.
  • The violation relating to employer’s failure to notify of Final Nonconfirmation of employee’s employment eligibility has increased from $942 – $1881 to $973 – 1,942, per relevant individual.
  • The penalty for unfair immigration related employment practices has increased from $557 – $4,465 to $575 – $4,610 for the first order, per discriminated individual to $6,913 – $23,048 for third and subsequent offense.
  • The fines for unfair documentary practice have increased to $230 – $2304, per individual discriminated against.
  • Whereas the penalty for document fraud can vary anywhere from $575 – $11,524 per document pursuant to 8 U.S. Code § 1324c (a) (1) – (6) on whether it’s first or subsequent offense.

On average, 65%-75% of the I-9s audited have one or more errors. For example, the proposed fine for an employer with 1,000 I-9s that is found to have 65% error rate (i.e. 650 I-9s) with substantive errors would face a potential fine of over $1.8 million (650 x $2,789 = $1,812,850).

Taking into account that any mistakes made in filling out and filing Form I-9 can be even more costly than before, employers need to adhere to the necessary rules and procedures. To avoid Form I-9 fines, they should regularly assess their organization’s hiring processes, retention and storage policies, fully understand the types of Form I-9 violations and lawfully correct any errors if the need arises.

How to Take Proactive Measures to Avoid Form I-9 Fines

ICE actively conducts worksite enforcement audits and if employers fail to complete, retain or make Form I-9 available for inspection, the punishments imposed can result in significant penalties. Therefore, to avoid Form I-9 fines, employers are encouraged to take proactive measures, develop proper procedures and perform regular self-audits. On the other hand, employers who fail to do this or to properly train and supervise the preparation and maintenance of Form I-9 expose themselves to sizable risks by making common I-9 mistakes.

While some errors may be corrected, employers can avoid Form I-9 fines and significant expenses by developing internal procedures to ensure that every form is properly completed, verified, maintained and readily accessible. To simplify this and transform hiring compliance into a highly efficient and reliable operation, they can automate Form I-9 administration, convert paper documents to compliant electronic forms, filter outdated files, remediate errors and avoid costly Form I-9 penalties. As a result, employers replace the risks and expenses of outdated, obsolete I-9 processes in favor of smarter, faster and more reliable Form I-9 management and compliance.

Complete Form I-9 properly, save time on the review process, and ensure compliance during the hiring process while meeting United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and ICE regulatory mandates.

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