Clients often ask, “What’s the risk of not complying with immigration law?” In essence, what they’re asking is how much it will cost if they don’t get it right.  So, I thought it might be helpful to look at some recent immigration-related penalties to illustrate what’s at stake.

The penalties will of course be fact-dependent, and, as you know, the good faith of the employer can have an enormous impact, but generally speaking, sentences for employers range from up to six months in prison for knowingly hiring an illegal worker to 10 years for harboring one.  Also, other charges and additional penalties can be tacked on for crimes like tax evasion, money laundering, bank fraud and false statements that stem from what began as an immigration-related investigation.  Immigration violations also carry significant civil fines of up to $16,000 per worker.

But jail time and fines are not the only significant penalties.   Asset forfeiture, debarment, and reinstatement requirements can also be added on, and there is also the indirect damage from lost productivity, attorneys’ fees and negative publicity.

To put these penalties in real terms, see these examples from recent cases. Click here to see the table.