As the stakes for a business to be compliant with federal law grows, so does the demand for learning how to conduct a self-audit to ensure I-9 compliance. Employers are increasingly understanding the importance of this practice to reduce the number of potential violations before an official audit is in process. If done properly, a self-audit can provide employers with more confidence and peace of mind in achieving and maintaining a compliant status.
8 Steps to Conduct a Self-Audit to Ensure I-9 Compliance
With the incidence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigations estimated to have quadrupled in recent years, it is perhaps more crucial than ever for companies to become proactive when it comes to preparing for a potential audit. Eight main steps for how to conduct a self-audit to ensure I-9 compliance is as up to date as possible include:
- Gather I-9 forms on file
- Ensure every current employee has a Form I-9 on file
- Obtain forms for current employees that are missing a Form I-9
- Verify proper retention of I-9 forms for terminated employees
- Perform an audit for every Form I-9 on file
- Identify and correct Form I-9 errors
- Document all actions taken during a self-audit
- Keep new hires on track from day one
Gather I-9 Forms on File
Since the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, federal law has mandated that employers have employees complete a Form I-9, which was created to ensure that employees are eligible to work in the United States.
During a self-audit, an employer will need to gather each Form I-9 on file. This may include hard copies and digital copies, possibly from multiple locations if the employer has more than one office. The digitization of the form that takes place when a company utilizes digital I-9 software can greatly simplify this task.
Ensure Every Current Employee Has a Form I-9 on File
Not having a Form I-9 on file for a current employee can be considered a compliance violation and is often one of the first red flags that can be raised during an official audit. For this reason, once all I-9 forms have been gathered, it is crucial to reconcile that every current employee has a Form I-9 on file.
Obtain Forms for Current Employees That Are Missing a Form I-9
If during the self-audit it is discovered that there are one or more current employees hired on or after November 6, 1986 that are missing a Form I-9 on file, it is imperative that those forms be filled out immediately.
In this particular situation, it is important to note that employers should:
- Make the employee in question aware of the missing form immediately
- Ask the employee to provide proper documentation as stated on the Form I-9 by a specific time and date
- Have the employee fill out a Form I-9 after documentation is received
- Attach a short explanation to the Form I-9 that explains the issue came up during a self-audit and was immediately rectified
- Keep a detailed record of all of the above communication
Verify Proper Retention of I-9 Forms for Terminated Employees
The regulations set forth in the Form I-9 require that employers keep an employee’s form for three years after the employee’s date of hire or for one year after an employee’s termination. Employers should use whichever date is later.
A company that has not properly eliminated a Form I-9 for an employee may be in violation of compliance that could result in punitive measures.
Perform an Audit of Every Form I-9 on File
Particularly for employers with hundreds of employees, performing an audit of every Form I-9 on file can be a rather daunting process as each form typically requires a number of different checkpoints.
Some of the basic information employers may want to review on each Form I-9 can include:
- There are no blank fields
- Each field is filled out in its entirety
- Required signatures are provided
- Identification documents are properly categorized
Employers that use digital I-9 software can usually expect this process to be more streamlined thanks to the digitization of the forms, an error finding system that can identify blank fields and missing signatures, and timely action item reminders and alerts.
Errors that are found should be appropriately identified, corrected, and documented to show steps taken in good faith. If done correctly, this documentation may positively impact compliance during an official audit.
Document All Actions Taken During a Self-Audit
Any errors found during a self-audit should be well documented as such by the employer. The company should also thoroughly document the additional steps taken with each employee to rectify any missing forms or errors. In the case of an official external audit, this should provide auditors with a well-marked trail of steps the company took in good faith to be compliant with federal law.
Keep New Hires on Track From Day One
Although periodic self-audits can be a useful tool in avoiding compliance issues, an equally effective method is to keep new hires on track to properly complete a Form I-9 from day one. Employers that may find this to be a time management struggle can benefit from utilizing digital I-9 software.
This software typically provides employers with two printable checklists. The first checklist is to provide an employee with advance knowledge of the type of information the Form I-9 requires. The second checklist is to provide employers with a system to keep each step of the Form I-9 process on track in a timely manner.
When it comes to how to conduct a self-audit to ensure I-9 compliance, consider lightening your workload by enlisting the help of a digital I-9 software provider.