Over the past year, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division has stepped up its scrutiny of employer I-9 compliance. Following on the heels of highly publicized I-9 inspections of 652 employers in July 2009, and 1,000 businesses and organizations last fall, ICE announced on March 2nd that it had issued Notices of Inspection to 180 businesses in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.

This expanding enforcement effort reminds employers of the importance of the employment eligibility verification (I-9) process, since even inadvertent paperwork errors may expose a company to fines, and intentional or neglectful violations could subject an employer to criminal penalties. By developing and implementing a due diligence program that includes policies on completing and maintaining I-9s, training and self-audits, employers can take proactive steps to improve I-9 compliance and minimize the risk of sanctions.

We recommend that all employers systematically review their I-9 procedures and policies periodically, as well as perform regular audits of their I-9 forms to ensure compliance.