Your I-9 Audit Checklist

Published: March 9, 2023 by Gordon Middleton

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a government agency tasked with ensuring employees are legally allowed to work in the U.S., among other responsibilities. To confirm an employee’s work eligibility, employers must remain I-9 compliant. To stay in compliance, businesses can conduct internal I-9 audits to ensure all employees are legally allowed to work in the U.S. This guide will cover how to do an I-9 audit with our I-9 checklist.

What Is an I-9 Audit?

In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which requires all employers to complete I-9 forms for all new employees. I-9 forms are used to verify new hires’ identity and employment authorization for employment in the United States. An I-9 audit is a process used to verify the employment eligibility of new staff and helps businesses remain compliant. Conducting an I-9 audit is a practice that employers can make to help avoid audits by the IRS. In addition, through self-audits, companies can create a paper trail of documentation that can help them avoid fines and penalties that come with IRS audits.

How to Conduct an I-9 Audit

Conducting I-9 audits is a great practice to have in place, as it allows you to fix errors and find any missing documentation or information related to I-9 forms. Below are steps on how to do an I-9 audit that can help your organization stay compliant.

Step 1: Create a List of Current and Previous Employees Since Nov. 6, 1986

The first step in conducting an I-9 audit is creating a list of current and previous employees since Nov. 6, 1986. The Immigration Reform and Control Act was signed into law on Nov. 6, 1986, making this the effective date when employers were required to verify the identity and work authorization of all their employees. Therefore, to prepare for an I-9 audit, you should list all current and previous employees hired since this date and mark whether they’ve completed an I-9 form.

Step 2: Collect All I-9 Forms

The next step is collecting all I-9 forms from your employees, including current employees, employees hired since Nov. 6, 1986, and employees terminated within the last three years, which is the statute of limitations for holding onto an employee’s I-9 form.

Depending on the size of your organization, you might have I-9 forms in various locations, such as your company’s headquarters and regional offices or stored electronically online. A central database that houses all employee I-9 forms is a great way to ensure all documents are accounted for. In addition, in today’s digital world, it’s often recommended that you electronically upload all I-9 forms to improve access and security.

Additionally, you might need to collect I-9 forms from missing employees. If this is the case, it’s essential to reach out to all employees and explain why they need to submit their I-9 forms and the process for doing so.

Step 3: Audit I-9 Forms

After collecting all I-9 forms, the next step is conducting your I-9 audit. I-9 forms have three sections, meaning there are three areas you need to audit. Each section will require different information, such as an employee’s name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and information certifying their identity and work authorization status. In our I-9 audit checklist, you can find the information you need to verify when conducting an I-9 audit.

Step 4: Correct Any Errors

After going through each section of each employee’s I-9 form, the next step is making any necessary changes. When fixing mistakes, it’s essential to note of what was changed, whether with an electronic note if the I-9 was uploaded online or with a sticky note or something similar. It’s important to never write on an employee’s I-9 form.

The errors you correct will become part of your I-9 audit log, documenting the good faith taken to remedy any issues to remain compliant. Employers can reference the USCIS Handbook for Employersto learn how to document and make each change. It’s recommended to initial and date each correction made on an I-9 form.

Step 5: Complete the I-9 Audit

After correcting any errors found on your employees’ I-9 forms, it’s time to complete your I-9 audit. To wrap up, organize all I-9 forms and make documentation that outlines your I-9 audit procedure that HR staff can follow in the future. It’s also vital to keep I-9 audit logs and communication made with any employees to have documentation in place should the IRS conduct its own I-9 audit for your company.

I-9 Audit Checklist

I-9 forms are broken into three sections. Use our I-9 audit checklist to see what information you should verify in each section:

Section 1

  • Name, aliases, addresses and date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Email address and phone number (optional)
  • Immigration status and signed date
  • Translator or preparer information, if applicable
  • Must be completed on or before the 1st day of work for pay

Section 2

  • Corresponding documents should be accurate, such as List A being under List A and not List B or List C
  • All required information for each document
  • Documentation for proof of identity and work eligibility in the U.S.
  • Date the employee started work
  • Business name and address
  • Signatures from the company’s representative examining the employee’s documents
  • Must be completed on or before the 3rd day of work for pay, after the first day (following a Monday – Thursday rule.)

Section 3

  • This section is only completed if the employee’s work authorization has expired, if they were rehired within three years from when they previously completed their I-9 form or if their name changed

Common I-9 Audit Mistakes

The I-9 process can be time-consuming and confusing, which means there is room for errors to arise. Before conducting an I-9 audit, it’s important to know about common I-9 audit mistakes to know what to look out for when conducting your audit. Some of the top I-9 mistakes include:

  • Failing to finish the form within three business days
  • Failing to confirm the employment eligibility of workers with temporary citizenship status
  • Accepting false identification
  • Improperly maintaining I-9 forms of current workers
  • Missing dates or signatures
  • Allowing untrained staff to administer I-9s
  • Failing to conduct an internal I-9 audit
  • Failing to make copies of the I-9 form
  • Making corrections without initialing and dating

A best practice for employers is to include good faith markers to serve as factors for mitigation or possible elimination of smaller fines. Three ways to illustrate an employer is a good faith operator include:

  1. Creation of an SOP manual for the employer’s I-9 processes. This can be a great tool to ensure consistency and purpose and can be presented to an auditor to provide insight into the employer’s processes.
  2. An annual self-audit of I-9 forms and processes. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a full audit every year, but a spot audit to identify training issues could also be helpful. Corrections need to be made as applicable.
  3. Annual training for I-9 completers/administrators. Long time completers may object, but even in years when no official changes come to the form or processes, ICE enforcement positions may still be altered. Employers should note what was covered, the date of training, and attendees.

These are some of the many I-9 audit mistakes you can make. To improve I-9 compliance, work with Experian Employer Services. Our I-9 administration services help you streamline your I-9 process by automating manual procedures to improve efficiency, accuracy and compliance.

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