U.S.-based employers who may have downloaded Form I-9 – the Employment Eligibility Verification form – may need to review those forms to ensure that each employee’s Social Security number appears correctly in Section 1. When the revised Form I-9 was published on November 14, 2016, there was a glitch. Numbers entered in the Social Security number field are transposed when the form is completed and printed using a computer. For example, the Social Security number 123-45-6789 appears as 123-34-6789 when the form is printed.

Employers who have been using I-9 forms that include this glitch should download and save a corrected new Form I-9 at the web page uscis.gov/i-9. Employers who find completed forms that printed improperly should have employees draw a line through the incorrect Social Security number, write in the correct number, and then initial and date the correction. Employers should also include a brief written explanation with the I-9 Form about why the correction was necessary in case of an audit.

WHY IS FORM I-9 SO IMPORTANT?

All U.S.-based employers must be I-9 compliant. Those who hire immigrants can rely on an experienced Las Vegas immigration lawyer for advice regarding I-9 compliance and your other legal duties as an employer of international workers. Do not think of I-9 forms as simply more government red tape. Form I-9 is required by law, and it’s used by the government to determine if an immigrant qualifies to work in the United States. Federal authorities are strictly enforcing I-9 compliance – and imposing hefty fines on violators – so employers cannot afford to treat I-9 forms carelessly.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which went into effect in 2016, substantially increased the amount of the fines employers will pay for mistakes or omissions on Form I-9. The higher fines reflect the government’s increased determination to deter employers from hiring unauthorized workers. Given that the penalties for I-9 violations essentially doubled in 2016, it is more vital than ever for employers to ensure that they have established comprehensive I-9 compliance policies.

WHAT KIND OF FINE IS POSSIBLE FOR I-9 VIOLATIONS?

The federal government considers I-9 violations to be serious and continuing violations until they are resolved. In 2013, more than three thousand U.S. businesses were suspected of I-9 violations. In 2015, Hartmann Studios, Inc., a California event design and production company with 719 employees, was fined $605,250 for improperly completing I-9 forms. Don’t let your company be next. In today’s global marketplace, every employer can use an immigration attorney’s help with I-9s, visa petitions, and a variety of other immigration-related legal issues.

And don’t assume that your company is compliant just because you have not been investigated. The Trump administration has promised to bolster ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) with 15,000 new immigration officers. Many of these new immigration officers will be assigned to ensure compliance by U.S. employers with I-9 regulations and with other pertinent immigration laws and regulations.

With employer-targeted enforcement on the increase, U.S. employers will need to begin working proactively to stay compliant with the law. And with more ICE officers seeking violators and with higher fines for violations, employers should seriously consider consulting with an experienced Las Vegas immigration lawyer to review their I-9 compliance policies and procedures.