Yesterday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") issued 652 I-9 Audit Notices of Inspection ("Notices") to employers across the country. The number of Notices is significant, as it is more Notices than ICE issued during all of the last fiscal year. Equally important is ICE’s statement that businesses in every state and industry are being audited, "from agriculture-related businesses, to service businesses, to high-tech industry and everything in between." Here is what employers need to know.

What is an I-9 Audit Notice?

An I-9 Audit Notice alerts employers that ICE will be inspecting the employer's I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms and related documents to determine the employer's compliance with federal employment eligibility verification laws. Generally, employers are served with a Notice three business days before the actual inspection. During the inspection, ICE will review the employer's I-9 forms and any supporting documents (such as photocopies of the identity and work authorization documents if the employer retained them).

How are Employers Selected for Audits?

The reasons for an I-9 Audit selection may vary -- some employers are randomly selected and others are specifically targeted based on geography, industry sector, workforce composition, and other considerations. It appears that the 652 employers who received I-9 Audit Notices yesterday were targeted for audit. In its press release, ICE stated that the 652 businesses who received I-9 Audit Notices yesterday "have been selected for inspection as a result of leads and information obtained through other investigative means." To view the ICE press release, please click here.

What Should We Do if We Receive an I-9 Audit Notice?

We recommend that employers promptly seek legal counsel to guide them through the audit process and to help employers understand their legal rights and options. Timing is critical, and the possible fines and penalties for errors and/or noncompliance are significant.