Internal I-9 Audit Checklist & Recommendations

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  • 100 Years of Combined Experience
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Chris Quick

Former Special
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Roger Bach

Former Special
Agent (DOJ-OIG & DEA)

Timothy Allen

Former Special Agent
(U.S. Secret Service & DOJ-OIG)

Ray Yuen

Former Special
Agent (FBI)

Michael S. Koslow

Former Special
Agent (DOD & OIG)

Corporate Investigation

Internal I-9 Audit Checklist & Recommendations

internal audit checklist

Companies should regularly audit their employees’ I-9 immigration statuses to ensure the company is in compliance with federal immigration laws and the Immigration and Nationality Act. However, while these audits are essential for insulating the company from legal liability for having undocumented or illegal workers on their rosters, poorly planned audits can actually expose the company to legal liability for retaliating against workers or discriminating against them.

The internal auditing professionals at Corporate Investigation Consulting have helped numerous companies in all industries perform exceptional I-9 internal audits. In this article, they provide a checklist that they frequently use for conducting internal I-9 audits, as well as recommendations for making the audit as effective as possible.

Internal I-9 Audit Checklist

Internal I-9 audits can be done in a variety of ways. They should follow strict and formal procedures that ensure that the process is thorough and fair for everyone, though many companies use a more relaxed, informal process. Regardless, I-9 audits should at least cover the following basic steps.

Collect I-9s to Audit

One of the first decisions that companies have to make is whether they are going to audit all of their employees’ I-9s or just a sampling of them. Obviously, doing them all is more thorough but also more time-consuming, especially if your company has lots of employees. Only doing a sampling of targeted I-9s that are the most likely to uncover noncompliance is a tempting option. However, it can run afoul of anti-discrimination laws and other workplace protections.

Once a decision has been made, the next step is to collect I-9s for:

  • All current, active employees who were hired after November 6, 1986
  • Any terminated employees who were terminated within the last year or hired within the last 3 years, whichever is later

You will also need a list of all current employees as well as those who have been terminated but who fit in one of the criteria, above.

Review Section 1 and Correct Errors

Section 1 of the I-9 Form covers the following information about the employee:

  • Their name,
  • Address,
  • Date of birth,
  • Social Security Number, if they are a U.S. citizen,
  • Email address,
  • Telephone number,
  • Citizenship status,
  • Alien Registration Number, if they are a lawful permanent resident, and
  • If they are an alien authorized to work, the expiration date of their work authorization, as well as their:
    • Alien Registration Number,
    • Form I-94 Admission Number, or
    • Foreign Passport number, with its country of residence.

The Form also must be signed and include an attestation, under penalty of perjury, that the information on it is true.

If there are any inaccuracies in Section 1 of an I-9 Form or if any fields are not filled out, the employer or auditor cannot correct it. The employee must fix the error. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Handbook for Employers, the employee can:

  • Either strikethrough incorrect information or enter the correct or missing information, and
  • Initial and date the alteration.

The USCIS Handbook for Employers also covers other situations that may arise during this process.

Review Remaining Sections and Correct Errors

Sections 2 and 3 of the I-9 Form can be corrected by the employer. These Sections comprise the employee’s name and immigration or citizenship status as well as documents that were used to verify the worker’s:

  • Identity, and
  • Employment authorization.

Similar to the process for Section 1, the employer’s agent should strikethrough or add the information and then initial and date the Form.

Ensure Recordkeeping Requirements are Being Followed

I-9 auditors should also be keeping an eye out for whether the appropriate recordkeeping measures have been followed. For example, all current employees should have an I-9 on file, and the I-9s of recently terminated employees should be kept for the required amount of time.

Complete the Auditing Log

Throughout this process, auditors should be maintaining an I-9 audit log. For I-9 audits, this log should generally have three columns:

  1. The employee’s name,
  2. A description of the errors that were found on their I-9 Form, and
  3. The actions that were taken to correct the error.

The auditing log should then be kept according to the applicable recordkeeping policies of the company and the I-9 Forms returned to an appropriate and secure location with other important legal documents of employment.

Recommendations for Conducting an I-9 Internal Audit

The two most important elements that set good I-9 audits apart from bad ones are:

  1. Bad internal I-9 audits can expose the company to allegations that the audit was discriminatory or retaliatory, and
  2. Good audits satisfactorily show federal law enforcement that the company is taking its compliance requirements seriously.

Avoiding Allegations of Discrimination and Retaliation

When a company audits its employees’ immigration and citizenship status, it can lead to unforeseen and serious repercussions for some employees, but not others. It can also inconvenience certain workers, but not others.

Companies need to avoid both of these issues when they audit employee I-9 Forms.

This can generally be done during the planning stage by:

  • Setting the scope of the audit in a non-discriminatory way, and
  • Setting the timing of the audit in a way that cannot be seen to retaliate against audited employees.

The best way to avoid allegations of discrimination is to audit all employees. When that is not possible or feasible, a metric should be chosen to set the scope that could not be interpreted as discriminatory. One way to do this would be to conduct internal I-9 audits every three years and only audit people who were hired in the last three years – a sampling that is based on seniority rather than any protected class.

Show Law Enforcement That Your Company is Taking Compliance Seriously

Hiring immigrants who are not legally authorized to work in the United States can expose a company to significant legal liability. Showing that your company undertook good faith efforts to ensure that all of its employees were legally authorized to work for the business can make a big difference if immigration officials find unlawful workers on your company’s roster. Documentation of an internal I-9 audit can help to do that.

Internal I-9 Auditing Consultants at Corporate Investigation Consulting

The auditing professionals and consultants at Corporate Investigation Consulting have helped companies both large and small conduct effective I-9 audits of their employees. Contact them online or call them at (866) 352-9324 to get their assistance in running such an audit for your company.

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