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U.S. steps up pressure on companies over illegal workers

Increased paperwork audits could lead to fines; are you in compliance?

The Obama administration has announced that it intends to focus its immigration enforcement efforts on companies that hire illegal workers, by stepping up its audits of I-9 forms – the employment eligibility documents that businesses must fill out for every employee.

This is a change from the Bush administration, which had placed more emphasis on arresting illegal workers as opposed to levying penalties on employers. On July 1, Immigration officials kicked off the new effort by serving “Notices of Inspection” on 652 businesses around the country, announcing pending I-9 audits. That compares to 503 such notices issued by the U.S. during all of 2008.

Many more audits are expected, on both a random and targeted basis.

If you’re not completely sure you’re in compliance with all the I-9 requirements, this is a good time to double-check. The penalties for not being in compliance can be significant.

This is especially true since three have been recent revisions to the I-9 form.

It’s important to remind anyone who handles I-9s to treat all employees the same. If a company is too strict with employees who are not U.S. citizens, it can be liable under the anti-discrimination provisions of the law. On the other hand, if a company is lax with U.S. citizens and isn’t careful to make sure their forms are filled out properly, this can result in a fine.

Also, remember that an employee can complete the I-9 process with any documents allowed by law. That means one document from List A, or one from List B and one from List C. Even if you’re doubtful, you shouldn’t request other forms of identification.

You might consider keeping all I-9 forms in one place, rather than adding them to each employee’s personnel file. If you do get audited by the government, that will make the process easier.

You can find answers to many questions about the I-9 requirements here:

http://www.formi9.com/form-i9-faqs.aspx

We’d be happy to help you if you have further questions or would like to conduct a self-audit.

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