Law & Order

Government Increases Employer I-9 Audits, Updates Compliance Manual

The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services updated its “Handbook for Employers” (M-274) on how to complete I-9 forms when verifying the authorized work status of new hires. All U.S. employers are required to process I-9 forms. The updated instruction manual contains new information about electronic storage and retention of I-9 forms. It also has processing instructions for workers with complicated immigration status, such as H-1B or H-2A visas, or extended stays for employees with temporary employment authorization.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have increased the number of I-9 worksite inspections under the Obama Administration. In fiscal year 2010, ICE conducted 2,196 audits, collected $6.9 million in penalties and pursued 187 business owners for criminal complaints. The increased attention on I-9 compliance follows years of sporadic enforcement. While the goal is to prevent unauthorized workers from being hired, the government has been issuing fines for improperly completed forms, for example, failing to update the form for a name change. Employers must reverify the status of current workers as authorization documents expire, such as visas. However, forms do not need to be reverified for U.S. citizens and noncitizen nationals. For details, contact Stuart Gosswein at