Saving Money in I-9 Compliance: the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

[Editor’s Note: Today’s article is courtesy of Ms. Nicole Kersey, Attorney and Managing Director of Kersey Immigration Compliance LLC in Virginia. Ms. Kersey provides us with ways an employer can offset I-9 compliance costs.]

Several weeks ago, I requested some I-9s from a client. Last Monday, I received a package from the client, which had been sent via international priority overnight delivery so that it would arrive prior to 10:30 a.m. [I estimate that it cost approximately 2 gazillion dollars to send this package, and I like to imagine that the package flew in a first class seat, buckled in carefully, enjoying unlimited cocktails.] I opened the package last Thursday at around noon, which should provide some clue as to the relative urgency of the documents.

I opened the FedEx envelope to find a legal-sized white envelope within.

On opening the white envelope, I found a very formal-looking memo with “re” line and everything that more-or-less said “here’s the CD.”

In addition to the formal memo, I found an 8×8 square yellow padded envelope.

Inside that envelope was a smaller square envelope.

It was inside that envelope that I found a CD-sized envelope.

Inside that envelope was a CD containing copied of the requested documents.

If you’ve lost count, that adds up to five envelopes. Several of which might be re-used. (This scenario repeats itself frequently. I’m thinking of opening a side business selling slightly-used office supplies.)

How This Relates to I-9 Compliance

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with I-9s (other than the fact that there were copies of I-9s on the CD). Do not fret. I can make almost any story relate in some way to I-9s. Just ask anyone who has ever been stuck talking to me at a cocktail party. (If you’ve lost count, I’ve used the word “cocktails” twice already in this post. And you are right: I do not get invited to very many cocktail parties.)

Here’s the point: If employers spent half as much money and took half as much care with their I-9s to begin with, the FedEx fees, attorney fees, and envelopes (and all that they represent) would likely be unnecessary. It was suggested that I write about the biggest trends I see in self-audits and what employers might want to reconsider.

Almost every example I can think of could be resolved with a good training session. So this is my biggest money-saving tip of the year (aside from taking advantage of Super Double Coupon Days at Harris Teeter): provide training. Spend a little money now; save a lot later. Think of it like a driver’s education course.

I-9 Completion Training

A good I-9 training session, presented annually by an attorney with immigration and I-9 expertise, can help prevent the vast majority of I-9 errors. The cost is typically well within a company’s annual legal and/or training budget. A good training session covers the purpose of the form I-9, deadlines for completion, avoidance of discrimination, and proper form completion. A more advanced session may also cover I-9 correction, acceptance of receipts in various situations related to visa sponsorship, and similar immigration issues.

When those responsible for I-9 completion receive good training, they are more likely to avoid errors by either (1) knowing how to complete the I-9 properly or (2) knowing when they do not know how to complete the I-9 and asking questions to ensure that the I-9 is properly completed. I usually recommend that training be required for all individuals involved in the I-9 process and that it be repeated annually. If possible, employers should record the training session so that any new HR managers (or anyone who will be responsible for I-9s) can view the training before beginning to work with I-9s.

I-9 Audit Training

Let’s face it: even with great training, errors will be made. That’s where a self-audit is helpful. While I recommend that employers outsource this function (see The Dangers of the Self-Audit for more on that), sometimes employers cannot afford to hire outside counsel to complete the audit. In those situations, it is imperative that the individuals performing the audit receive in-depth training on how to properly audit and properly correct I-9s.

But Who Cares? There Will Still Be Errors that We Cannot Fix.

ICE cares, which is why you should too.

Showing ICE agents that an employer took the initiative and proactively trained its HR team on proper I-9 practices can help demonstrate good faith and can help an employer avoid fines for the errors that remain after a self-audit.

So jump on the training train. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the I-9 is simple or self-explanatory. Oh, and eat your greens, take your vitamins, get plenty of rest.

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Ms. Nicole Kersey is Attorney and Managing Director of Kersey Immigration Compliance LLC in Virginia. Ms. Kersey is a well published author and speaker in the area of immigration law, having assisted many U.S. employers with immigration compliance matters.