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Form I-9 & E-Verify For Dummies Blog Series 4: 5 Fundamental Truths about Form I-9 and E-Verify Compliance

One of the most interesting (and often challenging) aspects of Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance is deciphering fact from fiction. Like many “compliance” functions, the I-9/E-Verify processes are bound by a set of core rules that flow from legislation and various regulations and policies that have been enacted over a period of time. And while that may imply a sense of certainty and comfort when it comes time to learning about this area, the fact of the matter is that I-9 compliance often suffers from an interminable game of telephone, bolstered by years of misinformation. Allow me to illustrate…

Person 1: “Did you know that you can be fined if you don’t record any documents in Section 2? And if you knowingly hire an unauthorized worker, the case can go criminal.”

Person 2: “Hey, I heard the other day that missing documents in Section 2 is a crime! We better update ours ASAP. Most of them will probably bring in a driver’s license and SS card.”

Person 3: “OMG, did you hear the news? If you don’t record a driver’s license and SS card in Section 2, you’re going to jail!”

While the above example is a bit extreme (and tongue in cheek), there is indeed a lot of misinformation about the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes – some quite innocent and some potentially devastating. In an effort to demystify these processes, we wrote a special Form I-9 & E-Verify For Dummies ebook, a short guide designed to highlight the most important considerations in completing our favorite 2-page form. You can read (or revisit) parts 1, 2, 3 of the series here:

In our fourth and final installment, we reveal five fundamental truths that many employers have learned the hard way. Read below for a quick summary:

Truth 5: Even Paperwork Mistakes Can Cost You.

Some employers believe they don’t need to worry about Form I-9 audits and fines as long as they are not hiring and/or employing undocumented workers. As it turns out though, the government can (and will) penalize employers for so-called “paperwork” violations, especially when the failures could have led to the hiring of an unauthorized worker. So if you have I-9s on file that are missing signatures, document information, or were not completed in a timely fashion, now’s the time to act. Under their current guidelines, DHS can fine you for substantive and uncorrected technical violations to the tune of over $2,000 per form.

Truth 4: Pay Attention to When You Can Shred that File.

Many employers are under the mistaken belief that they can shred/destroy an I-9 once they’ve had it on file for three years. This is a big and potentially costly mistake. Remember, you always need to keep/retain an I-9 for as long as your employee remains current. Once employment ends (for whatever reason), you should then calculate the retention period by adding three years after the hire date and one year after the termination date. Whichever date is later is when you can shred the I-9. 

Truth 3: The Three-Day Rule Applies to Section 2, Not Section 1.

Many employers remember the so-called three-day rule – that an I-9 has to be fully completed three days after the employee starts work for pay. However, some mistakenly believe that this three-day rule also applies to the employee’s completion of Section 1. On the contrary, Section 1 must be completed on or before the first day of paid work. Failure to do so means you have a substantive violation on your hands – which is immediately fineable in the event of an audit.   Need more guidance? Check out this video.

Truth 2: Self-Audits are Good, but Make Sure You Follow the Rules.

In light of the current enforcement climate, many employers are conducting self-audits of their I-9s in an effort to fix past compliance mistakes. While self-auditing is a great idea, you have to make sure you are properly identifying and correcting issues according to the government rules. Not sure where to begin? Check out our webinar and then read more about the Guardian remediation service.

Truth 1: Going Electronic Pays Off.

Now more than ever, employers need to rethink their I-9 and E-Verify strategy with technology and compliance in mind. An increasing number of organizations now rely upon a fully integrated electronic I-9 and E-Verify system to make the process easier, more efficient, and less expensive overall.

Plus with a solution like Guardian by LawLogix, you’ll benefit from real-time error-checking, electronic signatures, the most comprehensive audit trail tracking, maximum security, remote hiring capabilities, preboarding, integration into E-Verify and virtually any onboarding system, best-in-class audit response services and more.

This concludes our Form I-9 & E-Verify For Dummies 4 part blog series.  If you haven’t already done so be sure to download the Form I-9 & E-Verify For Dummies eBook. Ready to evaluate your I-9 situation and get your house in order? Complete this form and get an expert consultation on your I-9 and E-Verify process.


About John Fay

John Fay is an immigration attorney and technologist with a deep applied knowledge of I-9 compliance and E-Verify rules and procedures. During his career, John has advised human resource managers and executives on a wide variety of corporate immigration compliance issues, including the implementation of electronic I-9 systems. In his current role, John serves as President at the LawLogix division of Hyland Software, Inc., where he oversees all aspects of the division’s operations and provides strategic leadership and direction in the development and support of Form I-9, E-Verify, and immigration case management software solutions.

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